By Peter Koutroumpis
Two goals in a span of just over two minutes fueled their initial offensive push past the visiting Los Angeles Kings in a 7-3 win at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Hurricanes captain Justin Faulk led all scorers with his first career hat trick while forward Jeff Skinner tallied two, and singles posted by Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho piled up the lopsided triumph over the Kings.
Goaltender Cam Ward recorded his 17th win of the season on a 27-save effort as Carolina’s third straight win at home brought the team’s recent home stand to a 5-2-1 finish.
Faulk’s fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the season re-energized his scoring output, part of a 41-30 advantage of shots on goal that overwhelmed both Kings goalies, Jonathan Quick (16 saves) and Darcy Kuemper (18 saves).
According to Carolina head coach Bill Peters, the defenseman has had good looks at the net all season, and as seams in the offense opened for other players, a night like this one wasn’t surprising for Faulk to have.
“He was shootin’ it, he was feelin’ it, he’s got a real good release,” Peters said.
“He’s got a heavy shot, he’s getting’ himself open, settin’ his feet and ready to shoot.”
Just because he wasn’t scoring, Faulk hadn’t changed anything.
“I wasn’t gonna stop shooting,” he pointed out.
“I didn’t think it all went away all-of-a-sudden, that I wasn’t scoring as much. I was gonna still keep shootin’, keep tryin’ to get my chances and obviously hope that they go in. Obviously, tonight was one of those nights.”
Piling it on
For the Kings, the hill to climb got steep quickly as Slavin’s top-shelf backhand goal was followed by three straight from Faulk, all blasts from the point.
With Carolina leading 4-0 at the 1:17 mark of the second period, Quick was replaced by Kuemper.
To the casual observer checking the score tracker at the bottom of their TV screen, the game seemed to be over following Skinner’s 17th goal of the season six minutes later.
The Hurricanes’ third power play marker of the game, the first game this season during which they’ve tallied that amount, was indicative of the team’s recent special teams’ play with the man-advantage according to Peters.
“The power play unit has been real dangerous here for a long time, and they were good tonight.”
Not yet over
L.A. continued to grind away and managed to get two goals back by the second intermission.
Anze Kopitar’s power play goal with Skinner in the box came at 11:49, while Tyler Toffoli stood his ground in front of Ward’s crease and slid a loose puck into the net just over five minutes later.
The Hurricanes struggled to hold off the Kings’ offensive push early in the third and Torrey Mitchell’s goal at 6:43 cut their advantage down to two.
However, Skinner’s second of the game and Aho’s 21st goal of the season provided enough support for Ward and the defense to hold on to preserve the win.
“They were comin’,” Skinner said.
“They’re a real good team with some skilled guys.”
Rack ‘em up
With another two points to their credit, the Hurricanes continued to occupy their wildcard spot in the NHL Eastern Conference standings.
“We wish it would have been a little cleaner,” Faulk said.
“Probably a few too many opportunities we gave up, especially how we were playin’ in the first period. Overall, two points and a nice win to finish off the home stand here is huge, and at the end of the day, you need the two points.”
Notes: The Hurricanes are 21-7-4 when scoring first in 2017-18 and are ranked third in the League in goals scored in the first period (55)…Faulk is the fifth Carolina defensemen to record a hat trick (Mark Howe: 10/9/80 at STL; Sandis Ozolinsh: 3/4/01 at CHI; Joe Corvo: 3/16/08 vs. OTT; Jaccob Slavin: 3/13/17 at NYI). In addition, he is the 10th blueliner in NHL history to record a natural hat trick and first since Dustin Byfuglien on Nov. 30, 2007…Skinner has scored three goals in his last two games (2/10-2/13: 3g, 0a) and has tallied a point in three straight games (2/9-2/13: 3g, 1a).
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport