Captain Eric Staal had a 5-point night, including his 11th career hat trick and his 200th NHL goal, to lead the Hurricanes to a dominant 7-1 win over an Ottawa Senators team that’s still recovering from a recent tragedy. It marked the sixth time in the last seven games that either the Hurricanes or their opponents have scored at seven or more goals, with Carolina improving their record to 3-3-0 in those contests.
“It was nice, especially at home,” said Staal, who achieved his milestone with his first goal of the game that made it 2-0 halfway through the first period. “I’m hoping to have a lot more than 200, but it’s obviously a great honor for me and I was fortunate to be on the end of some great plays tonight.”
Many of those came from linemates Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov, the latter of whom sent a nifty pass through an Ottawa defender’s legs on a two-on-one for Staal’s third goal that made it 6-1 in the third. Staal could have posted even gaudier numbers were it not for two big saves by Ottawa goaltenders Brian Elliot and Pascal Leclaire when Staal broke in alone shorthanded – something LaRose was quick to point out after the game.
“If he could score on some breakaways, he would have had a big night,” quipped LaRose, who finished with 2 goals and 2 assists.
Staal now has 15 points in 8 games in November, giving him 22 on the season and a considerable lead in the team scoring race. His hat trick also extended his own franchise record.
“He played great,” said LaRose. “He’s our leader on the ice, off the ice and in the weight room when he’s the first guy in there. He has been our leader constantly this year.”
The Canes led 4-0 after the first period thanks to an early goal by defenseman Tim Gleason, two power-play goals by Staal and an even-strength tally by LaRose. They would never look back, as the Senators, who attended a memorial service in Ottawa earlier in the day for the 14-year-old daughter of assistant coach Luke Richardson, were clearly affected by their taxing day.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the organization and the Richardson family,” said Staal. “It’s obviously an awful situation. We weren’t happy with our last two games, we came out ready to play and they looked like a team with a lot of their mind.”
“We did some good things tonight, and I think the two practice days we had really helped regain our focus,” said Erik Cole, whose powerful move and perfect feed set up Tuomo Ruutu’s goal that made it 7-1 late. “At the same time, it’s a team that’s been through a pretty tough week, and you kind of have to factor that in.”
Regardless, the outing was just what the Hurricanes needed after dropping their last two games by a combined score of 15-3. That stretch came after another 7-1 win at home over the Edmonton Oilers eight days ago, making this stretch one of the strangest in recent memory.
“It’s a whole lot better than being on a one-way slide downhill,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said of the recent rollercoaster. “That’s what we’re learning and that’s all part of what we’re going to go through at times this year. As long as we keep that fight coming back and we keep getting better and play a better defensive game on the nights where things aren’t easy for us offensively, we’ll be fine.”
“There’s highs and lows, and the more even keel you can stay the better,” said LaRose.
Just like in previous blowout wins at the RBC Center this season, the only blemish came in the form of a spoiled shutout for goaltender Cam Ward, who made 23 saves, including a huge glove save on Peter Regin at the start of the second period when the Canes came out flat and caused Maurice to call a timeout.
That goal, a shot from the point by Daniel Alfredsson on a third-period power play that changed directions multiple times on its way in, was the 1,000th career point for the Senators captain.
The Hurricanes were playing without any of the four players included in a late afternoon trade that preceded the game, with Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos already on the way out and newcomers Ian White and Brett Sutter yet to arrive.
White, a former member of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames who has not yet played for an American-based team, will have to go through immigration before he can join the Hurricanes. Sutter will report to Charlotte of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint.
The Hurricanes head to Pittsburgh on Friday before returning to Raleigh on Saturday to host the Nashville Predators.