RALEIGH, N.C. – It only took Carolina Hurricanes alternate captain Jordan Staal 79 seconds to score against the Ottawa Senators at PNC Arena on Friday.
Battling for the puck and outskating Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Staal used his long reach to wrap the puck around from the goal line and off the far post to put Carolina ahead 1-0 with his 12th goal of the season.
The eventual game-winning goal, coupled with a 34-save shutout performance from goaltender Eddie Lack led the Hurricanes to a 3-0 win over the Senators, and ended a five-game winless streak.
Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg both added to the result with their sixth and ninth goals of the season, respectively.
“We did a good job of staying with it,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“I think we generated chances throughout the game and that’s what we’ve got to continue to focus on – being aggressive offensively without being high risk.”
Senators goalkeeper Craig Anderson faced a barrage of shots early and often, making a total of 41 stops in the game, and facing 19 Carolina shots during the opening period alone – a season high mark for the Hurricanes.
However, Anderson was unable to deny Staal’s line with Phil Di Giuseppe and Brock McGinn from beating him multiple times.
With McGinn on the bench getting looked at, Lindholm subbed in and was rewarded for it.
With 4:44 left in the second, Staal watched as Di Giuseppe slid a backhand pass across the low slot to Lindholm who one-timed it past a sprawling Anderson.
Staal won the faceoff, one of 10 that he claimed throughout the game, and soon after corralling the puck on the end boards, shot it towards the net.
Though it got blocked, the puck bounced freely for Di Giuseppe to pick up.
“Phil, Ginner – both hard workin’ guys who can skate well,” Staal said.
“When they have the opportunity, they can make good plays. Like Phil’s pass to Lindy was a high-skilled play. It was a good look, and those two guys played well tonight.”
Lack was his busiest during the middle period, making 18 stops while getting some help from his posts.
“I saw it (puck) well today – a little bit lucky when I needed to,” the winning keeper said.
“I’ve just been working on getting back to having fun. That’s obviously when I play my best hockey.”
Stalberg scored four minutes after Lindholm, a rebound finish of Sebastian Aho’s backhand shot that Anderson initially stopped with his pad.
The loose puck created the opportunity for a shot into a wide open net, even with Sens defenseman Erik Karlsson trying to get in the way.
Center Victor Rask helped to set the play up with the original pass to Aho, and as a result, ended a 14-game pointless drought in the process.
The shutout was Lack’s first since January 2016, a 5-0 win he earned against Chicago.
Having started only six games this season, mostly due to being out with a concussion, the netminder has taken a refreshed approach to playing.
“I feel like I’ve been playing too pretty (mechanically) maybe,” he said.
“Hopefully, at the end of this year, we’re going to see the real Eddie.”
For Staal, earning his team high ninth multi-point game, the win took a weight of his and his teammates’ shoulders for now.
Scoring goals had become a problem, so netting three of them was a welcome relief.
“I think we did a better job of getting to the net,” Staal said.
“I just think we had more jump. We haven’t played with that kind of speed since the (All-Star) Break. You can tell that was our game and it’s what we want to do every night. Play with that speed and do the things we did tonight.”
However, will that effort come too late to make the playoffs?
Sitting at 25-24-8 and in 2nd-last place in the Metropolitan Division standings, and 10 points out of the wildcard race (with three games in-hand), flashes of a season that could have been may be what plays out until early April.
Or maybe not, and an incredible win streak ensues combined with multiple other teams faltering like the Hurricanes have in recent weeks.”
That’s the scenario Peters would like to see obviously.
“Dig in – it’s for real,” he said.
“They need points; we need points. Dig in, get competitive and when someone’s tryin’ to steal your lunch money, don’t let it happen.”