Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- Head Coach Kirk Muller has said before that there is a lot of fight left in the Carolina Hurricanes, and that continued to ring true tonight, as they topped the Dallas Stars for the first time since Dec. 16, 2009 by a score of 4-1. Four different players tallied for Carolina – Eric Staal, Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles and Riley Nash – and Anton Khudobin made 33 saves in his 18th victory of the season. “They did have their chances in the first, and Dobby played great,” Faulk said. “When we did get that bounce, it was nice to get things rolling.”
-- Defenseman Andrej Sekera was a late scratch with a lower-body injury. In his stead, the Canes group of six on the back-end collectively stepped up. Liles posted three points (1g, 2a) and was a plus-2. On his bobblehead night, Faulk recorded a goal and an assist and was named the game’s first star. Mike Komisarek jumped in on a moment’s notice and skated in 11:12 of ice time. “He’s been playing so well, so obviously that’s a blow. But hey, compliments to Mike Komisarek and guys like that haven’t played,” Muller said. “Then they jump in and do their job. Roddy keeps them in good shape, ready and focused. That’s great to have that veteran experience to jump in and play.”
-- Muller on Liles: “We liked his game,” he said. “Tonight was his best game. With the guys that were out of the lineup, we needed veteran guys to step up, and he was one guy I thought played really well tonight.”
-- After a scoreless first period, the second period took off quickly – and in a fluky way. Liles fired off a shot that rode up Staal’s leg, popped up into the air and dropped into net over Kari Lehtonen. It was Staal’s second goal in as many games that went in off some part of his body other than his stick, not that the Canes are complaining. “A little – a lot – bit of a fluky first goal, but those are the bounces that you sometimes need,” Liles said. “It was nice to be on the right end of that one.”
-- Muller on the bounces: “Well, like we say, ‘Shoot the puck,’” he said. “It doesn’t have to be highlight goals. Just get it there, and you don’t know what could happen.”
-- The Canes scored at a 20 percent clip on the power play, notching goals on their first two man advantages of the game. Both goals came via point shots from defensemen, and Chris Terry recorded his first two NHL assists on both tallies. “A lot of times we deal with injuries and deal with a lot of different personnel,” Liles said of the power play. “It’s a matter of all getting on the same page, and I think tonight we were all pretty well on the same page.”
-- Khudobin made 33 saves on 34 shots, a .971 save percentage, to improve to 18-12-1 on the season. Especially in the first period and when Dallas had an early third-period power play looking to cut the Canes’ lead to just a goal, he came up big. “He’s been coming up with some big saves. We’re getting the goaltending every night with both of them,” Muller said. “Our goaltenders are keeping us in it early. We’re getting our confidence, and then we seem to really play stronger in the second and third. A lot of that has to do with goaltending.”
-- Khudobin on his play: “I focus just on my game – how to get the result, how to get the job done, how to win the game and how to help my teammates.”
-- The Canes have just five games remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, and Fan Appreciation Week will continue on Saturday as they host Tuomo Ruutu and the New Jersey Devils. After traveling to New York to face the Rangers on Tuesday, the Canes return home to battle the Capitals on Thursday. They will then round out the season in Detroit and Philadelphia.
Justin Faulk had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes (34-32-11; 79 points), who are 3-0-2 in their past five games. Although their chances are remote, they remain mathematically in contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Stars (37-28-12; 85 points) remained tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference, now with one game in hand.
After a scoreless first period when Dallas had the better chances, Carolina quickly halted the Stars' momentum with an unusual goal 2:30 into the second. Faulk took a shot that hit teammate Eric Staal's skate and sailed in the air. As players searched for the puck, it settled over the right shoulder of Kari Lehtonen into the net for Staal's 19th goal.
Carolina made it 2-0 less than two minutes later when Faulk scored on a one-timer on the power play at 4:08. Liles and Chris Terry picked up assists after the Hurricanes worked the puck patiently. Terry's assist was his first in 13 NHL games.
Carolina quickly went to work on another power play a short time later when Dallas defenseman Patrick Nemeth hooked Riley Nash on a breakaway. Already with two assists, Liles scored on a short-side wrister at 7:06 as Staal provided a screen in front.
Lehtonen was replaced by Tim Thomas after making 13 saves on 16 shots.
Tyler Seguin put Dallas on the board with his 34th goal at 9:44. Valeri Nichushkin fed a pass through the neutral zone for Seguin, who slipped behind Andrei Loktionov and lifted a wrist shot over Khudobin's glove.
The Hurricanes pushed the lead to 4-1 at 7:40 of the third period when Riley Nash took a wrist shot over Thomas's glove for his 10th of the season.
The Stars began the game with plenty of jump, continually getting behind the Hurricanes defense in the first period. Khudobin stopped Seguin on a 2-on-1 before shutting down Dustin Jeffrey at the left post.