Tracking the Storm: Postgame
-- PNC Arena was buzzing on the fifth Friday of January, as the Carolina Hurricanes closed out the month with a statement win over one of the NHL’s top teams. The Canes defeated the St. Louis Blues by a score of 3-1 to establish a 10-4-0 record in January, their second-best record in the first month of the calendar year in franchise history. “We had to bring our A-game here tonight if we wanted good results. Right from the get-go, I thought our guys were focused,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “They came out hard, and I thought we put a real good 60 minutes together tonight.”
-- Muller this morning talked about wanting to get off to a good start – and the situational records of either team underscored the importance: the Blues were 30-1-3 when scoring first, and the Canes were 14-1-4. Tonight marked the 20th time in 54 games that the Canes have struck first, and St. Louis has surrendered the first goal just 19 times. Nathan Gerbe was the opening goal-scorer, as he took a beautiful cross-ice feed from Andrej Sekera on the power play for the one-timer. “There was an opening. He found a soft area where he was wide open, so I just tried to give it to him,” Sekera said. “He did a pretty good job. He shot it hard and scored.”
-- Though the Blues would find the equalizer on a power play of their own just about six minutes after Gerbe gave Carolina a 1-0 lead, the Canes never really let the momentum slip through their fingers, putting together one of their best 60-minute efforts of the season against a team that had previously lost just 11 games in regulation. “We were skating well. We talked about playing a high-tempo game tonight,” Muller said. “Especially in the second, I thought we started to kind of wear them down by spending a lot of time in their zone.”
-- Jeff Skinner potted his 23rd goal of the season – what was ultimately the game-winning tally – off a faceoff win by Jordan Staal. Skinner posted seven goals in January, ranking second on the team behind Alexander Semin’s eight. “We wanted to come out and have a good start,” Skinner said. “I thought it was a good start, and we were able to maintain it.”
-- Anton Khudobin continues to add to his win column. He’s now 12-4-0 on the season with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Against what was the league’s second-most potent offense, Khudobin made 26 saves on 27 shots, including one on Chris Stewart in the second period, as he slid across the crease to make a pad stop to preserve his team’s one-goal lead. “He played well. They had some good opportunities, and we got a couple nice little breaks with the post,” Muller said. “He was sharp, and he made some nice saves. Collectively, with the guys in front, he made the first one, and I thought our D did a good job taking away the second and third rebounds.”
-- Khudobin on the team’s play in front of him and the posts St. Louis hit in the third period: ““It’s great to have a team like this. It’s an easier game for me,” he said. “At the end, everyone expected that they would come hard. Posts are great. Posts are lucky for goalies. Another friend.”
-- In the latter two periods, the Canes were able to fend off some penalty trouble against what was the league’s second-best power play (23.6 percent). Muller credited the team defense as a whole keeping much of the play to the perimeter and cleaning up any rebound opportunities. “Everything was focused tonight – special teams and five-on-five,” he said.
-- The Canes’ 10-4-0 record in January is the second-best mark behind only the team’s near-perfect 13-1-0 record in January 2006. It’s also the first time the Hurricanes have posted a 10-win month since March 2009. “We knew it was a big game coming in,” Jordan Staal said. “As of late, we’ve consistently been in every game. When we’re playing the way we can, we feel like there’s no team in the NHL that’s going to outplay us. When we’re going, things are going well.”
-- Tonight’s win kicks off a four-game homestand leading into the Olympic break. The Canes will host Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Florida on Friday and Montreal on Saturday. “We want to have a good feeling going into the break,” Skinner said. “We want to build off this win. It’s a good start tonight.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Nathan Gerbe, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin scored, and Anton Khudobin made 26 saves to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues at PNC Arena on Friday.
The Hurricanes (25-20-9) moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points. The Blues (36-12-5) had a three-game winning streak end.
St. Louis' Jay Bouwmeester and Jaden Schwartz each hit a post in the final two minutes.
Semin scored into an empty net with 1:04 remaining.
The teams traded power-play goals in the first period. With St. Louis forward Brenden Morrow in the box for high sticking, Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera made a perfect cross-ice pass to Gerbe, who one-timed a shot for his 12th goal of the season at 3:46.
St. Louis answered 12 seconds into its first opportunity with the man-advantage. David Backes took a pass from Derek Roy in the slot and beat Khudobin to the stick side at 9:23. T.J Oshie won the puck along the boards to earn the second assist.
The Blues committed three penalties in the first period.
Skinner gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead at 1:51 of the second period. Jordan Staal won a faceoff back to Skinner, who quickly moved between the circles and shot low to the far post for his 23rd of the season.
Each team had a prime scoring chance during a shift early in the second. The sequence started when Blues forward Alexander Steen pushed a redirect wide in front of an open net. Moments later, Khudobin came across the crease to stop Chris Stewart's one timer, before Jaroslav Halak returned the favor on Carolina's Patrick Dwyer in the slot.
The Hurricanes killed back-to-back penalties beginning late in the second period to preserve the lead against the NHL's second-ranked power play, which finished 1-for-4.