Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- After a four-day break in the schedule, the Carolina Hurricanes returned to the ice and returned to the win column with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Alexander Semin tallied twice, and Anton Khudobin made 37 save en route to the Canes’ 20th win of the season. “I think we had contributors all over our lineup. It was a good win,” forward Eric Staal said. “We did a good job of sticking with the game plan.”
-- It could have been easy for the Canes to get frustrated after the first period. They fired 15 shots toward Tim Thomas, including nine on two power plays, and had nothing to show for it. The first power-play unit, especially, was creating dynamite scoring chances. On one opportunity, Elias Lindholm fed Staal slot, and he nearly scored. Then Jeff Skinner just missed on the rebound. Later, Thomas stoned Jordan Staal with a glove save. “We had some really, really good chances that you’d like to think, most of the time, go in,” Eric said. “Thomas was really solid, and he was the whole night.”
-- Muller on the team’s play early: “(We wanted) to get off to a good start and set the tempo. I thought we had a good start and good first period.”
-- The Hurricanes ended their goalless drought of 144:46 via Riley Nash’s fifth goal of the season at the 3:37 mark of the second period. The play began with a mid-air keep by Radek Dvorak at the blue line. Nash then cleaned up the rebound spit out by Thomas. When asked if he was relieved to see the puck finally go in the net after seven periods of scoreless hockey, Nash shrugged it off. “I guess so,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it like that.”
-- After Nash’s goal, the momentum in the second period – especially the latter half – shifted to the Panthers, as Marcel Goc tallied the game-tying goal. Cue the return of the Canes’ first line, and their game-changing abilities. Semin netted his seventh goal of the season on a quick shot off a faceoff win, as Jiri Tlusty provided the screen in front of Thomas.
-- Despite a couple of momentum-stalling penalties, the Canes kept rolling, as Semin scored his second of the night on a shorthanded breakaway at the 8:57 mark off a pass from Staal, his second assist of the night and team-leading 27th of the season. “That was nice to see him score a couple,” Staal said. “You gain your confidence that way.”
-- More Semin, when asked if he was happy to be reunited on the top line with Staal and Tlusty: “Yes. We scored two goals tonight. It’s great.”
-- Muller on the first line: “I talked to them as a line just to say, ‘Don’t put the pressure on yourselves that you have to go out and feel like you have to score three goals every game. What you need to do is just play the game well, play hard and be a hard-working line. If you do that, probably the results will kick in consistently.’”
-- Nash on Semin: “He was good. When you watch that, it’s tough to see him not playing for the Russians. I think he’s one of the best talents in the world. When he plays hard, he’s one of my favorite players to watch, that’s for sure. He’s a real treat to watch, especially on a night like tonight.”
-- Semin’s shorthanded tally was the team’s league-leading ninth of the season. “I think it’s more just the personnel we use. If anything, we harp on them to kill it first,” Muller said when asked if there was a secret to the team’s success in that department. “It just happens that we’re getting some opportunities, and we have guys that can skate and score when they get the opportunity.”
-- Some random notes: The Canes are now 29-7-4 vs. Florida since the 1999-2000 season. … The Canes improved to 12-1-4 when scoring first. … Over his last 26 games, Eric Staal is better than a point-per-game producer with 28 points (7g, 21a). … Nash’s fifth goal of the season establishes a new career high for the third-year forward.
-- The Hurricanes will get right back at it on Sunday with an early 5 p.m. faceoff versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, another former Southeast Division opponent. “I’m very happy with my team’s win tonight,” Semin said.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Alexander Semin scored twice in the third period, including a shorthanded goal, Anton Khudobin stopped 37 shots, and the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 Saturday.
Carolina (20-18-9) came into the game off consecutive shutout losses. Florida (18-23-7) lost its second straight.
Semin put the Hurricanes on top 2-1 at 2:31 of the third period. After Eric Staal won an offensive zone draw, Semin fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle just inside the far post.
Then, with the Hurricanes killing a penalty, Staal found Semin through the neutral zone for a breakaway against Tim Thomas at 8:57. It was Carolina's NHL-leading ninth shorthanded goal. Semin scored three goals in his previous 24 games.
Florida closed to 3-2 at 14:21 when Dmitry Kulikov's shot from the left point went in off Tomas Kopecky.
Carolina scored the first goal at 3:37 of the second period when Riley Nash finished a rebound for his fifth of the season. Radek Dvorak started the play by knocking down a clearing attempt at the blue line before putting a shot on net. Dvorak's assist was his first point in 18 games.
Marcel Goc tied the game at 15:05 after Florida put in a hard-working shift in the offensive zone. Jonathan Huberdeau sent a pass across the crease for Goc's ninth of the season. Kopecky had the second assist.
The Panthers had a four-minute power play early in the period, but looked sloppy and generated two shots. Florida's best opportunity came from Kulikov, who hit the left post. The Panthers were 0-for-4 on the night, extending a streak to 0-for-32.
The Hurricanes outshot the Panthers 15-13 in the first period, largely on the strength of two power plays five seconds apart. Carolina had several close-in scoring chances, but Thomas was exceptional, stopping nine shots on the man-advantage.
The Hurricanes have struggled to score in the first period all season, with 22 goals through 47 games.
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