Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- Of the 60-minute efforts put forth by the Carolina Hurricanes this season, that had to be among the best. The Canes jumped on the Toronto Maple Leafs early and never looked back, as they trounced Toronto 6-1 to claim the season series between the two teams. Six different Hurricanes found the back of the net, but Jordan Staal led the way with a four-point night (1g, 3a), which ties a career-high he set as a Penguin in November 2008. At the other end of the ice, Anton Khudobin won his fourth consecutive start and sixth game this season, stopping 25 of Toronto’s 26 shots. “We were good from the start,” defenseman Justin Faulk said. “It’s got to be up there with one of the best 60-minute efforts we’ve had all year.”
-- The game started with about as good of a first period as you could ask for, as the Canes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 8:33 of the game with goals from Zach Boychuk, his first of the season, and Jeff Skinner, his 17th goal in as many games and team-leading 21st of the season. Joffrey Lupul would cut Carolina’s lead in half and briefly swing the momentum toward Toronto, but a goal from Patrick Dwyer at the 17:33 mark widened the lead again, as it would grow ever wider. “It’s nice to jump on a team like that early and contribute as a fourth line,” Boychuk said.
-- Head coach Kirk Muller on the complete team effort: “That game (postponed) in Buffalo gave us an extra day or two of rest. I didn’t know which way it was going to turn out tonight, but I think that really helped us. We had fresh legs and everyone contributing, so I was able to use the full bench, which was great.”
-- Elias Lindholm posted his second three-point night of his career, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. The Hurricanes were 2-for-6 on the power play tonight, and Lindholm was a key part of that success. On the team’s first power-play tally, he set up Staal in the slot from the goal line with confidence. He would late in the third period add a power-play goal of his own by driving the net and pouncing on a Skinner rebound that bounced off the end boards and onto his stick. “Easy goal,” he said with a smile.
-- Muller on Lindholm: “Lindholm is a natural playmaker. You saw him over in the World Championship, and he played down on the goal line. He played there with us earlier in the year,” he said. “He can create plays.”
-- In his first game against his former team, John-Michael Liles found the back of the net, his first goal of the season. On an odd-man rush – again with the fourth-line factoring in – Boychuk fed Liles with a tape-to-tape pass. Liles caught an indecisive Reimer with a blocker-side wrister. “With everything that’s gone on this year … some ups and downs for sure, but it’s nice to be at this point helping out a team and being able to contribute,” Liles said. “That’s all anyone wants to do.”
-- Liles was a plus-2 tonight and is a plus-7 in his four games as a Hurricane. He logged 18:05 of ice time tonight, the most he’s played since joining Carolina. As a natural power-play quarterback, he, in addition to Lindholm, has made the Canes’ power play that much more effective.
-- Khudobin is a perfect 6-0-0 in net on the season, as he’s won his last four starts. During that stretch, he’s stopped 132 of 139 shots (.950 save percentage). Although he only faced 26 shots tonight, he looked just as sharp as he has as of late. “Wow. He’s playing well,” Muller said. “He’s giving our group confidence, and he’s making big saves. He’s solid in there.”
-- Staal posted his 300th NHL point tonight with the primary assist on Skinner’s power-play goal. He would then add three more, including a shorthanded goal and two assists. The shorthanded tally was huge in terms of momentum, as the Canes, up 4-1, were faced with a penalty kill to begin the third period. Instead of the Leafs cutting into the lead, the Canes added to it. “That was the big one right there because it’s all momentum. They had a chance at the start of the third with the power play,” Muller said. “It was great that Jordan got a huge shorthanded goal there. After that, we just rolled the lines and played good, smart hockey.”
-- Faulk dropped the gloves with Lupul in the third period, and while it’s not exactly ideal to see your top-pairing defenseman and a U.S. Olympian toss hands, Muller said he didn’t mind it – but the timing could have been better. “Well, we’ll have to tell him if he’s going to drop them, don’t drop them at the end of a shift; do it when you’re fresh. It was after a long shift, so I’m just glad it’s done and he’s OK,” Muller said. “But he has to play with a little bit of an edge, so it’s not bad, either.”
-- Riding a season-high five-game winning streak, the Canes will face off on Friday with Metropolitan Division opponent Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that handed Carolina a stinging 4-3 loss before the Christmas break. “As much as you’re excited – and they should be because they played well and had a really good game – but, man, we have to do it all over again tomorrow night,” Muller said. “It’s just keeping everything clear and understanding why we’re doing well right now. But if you don’t come to work tomorrow night and put the same effort it, you won’t get the same result.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jordan Staal had a four-point night and Elias Lindholm added a goal and two assists to help the Carolina Hurricanes extend their season-high winning streak to five games in a 6-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
The Maple Leafs have lost three straight, allowing a combined 18 goals in those losses.
Carolina sealed a dominant performance early in the third period on a shorthanded goal.
With a 4-1 lead, Staal picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and beat Toronto goaltender James Reimer with a hard shot over the glove at the 35-second mark. Lindholm added a late power-play goal for the final margin.
Carolina came out of the gate quickly. Boychuk scored his first of the season at 2:33 to start a busy first period. Boychuk's backhander beat Reimer after Brett Sutter's centering pass deflected off defensemen Tim Gleason in the slot.
The Hurricanes made it 2-0 on a power-play goal from Jeff Skinner, his 17th goal in the past 17 games and 21st overall. Carolina moved the puck well with the man advantage until Skinner cleaned up the long rebound of Staal's shot at 8:33.
Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul cut the lead to 2-1, taking a centering pass from Mason Raymond and banging it in from the left post at 14:14.
The Hurricanes answered quickly. With Toronto scrambling in their own end, Patrick Dwyer grabbed a loose puck and sent it in through traffic at 17:33 for a 3-1 lead.
Despite Carolina's three-goal outburst, Reimer had to be sharp in the first period to keep Toronto in the game. He stopped a half-dozen quality chances in the opening 20 minutes, including two backhand shots from Drayson Bowman, as Carolina piled up a 15-8 advantage in shots.
The Hurricanes continued to push at the start of the second period. Defenseman John-Michael Liles, acquired from Toronto on New Year's Day in exchange for Tim Gleason, took a pass from Boychuk on a 2-on-1 and beat Reimer to the far post at 6:54.