Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- In the season series finale between the two teams, the Carolina Hurricanes were able to dig out of an early hole against the St. Louis Blues to earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss.
"I just liked the fact that we didn't cave in," head coach Bill Peters said. "If this was three months ago and we get down 2-0 in the first five minutes, I'm not sure we get a point out of the game."
-- Though not the team that went to a shootout and traveled the night before, the Hurricanes were the team that got better as the game progressed.
St. Louis came out firing on all cylinders, grabbing a 2-0 lead just 3:25 into the game. First it was Ryan Reaves who picked a soft spot in the Canes’ defense and scored on a one-timer from the slot. Then it was David Backes putting one past Anton Khudobin on the Blues’ third shot of the game.
"I don't really have an explanation why, but it was definitely a slow start," Peters said. "It was 2-0 and could have been 3-0, but I thought we did a good job after that."
"For playing a back-to-back, they came out with a lot of jump and a lot of energy," Cam Ward said. "We had been preaching before the game to not be surprised by that, but for some reason we didn’t have our legs moving.”
Though not squarely on his shoulders, Khudobin was pulled in favor of Cam Ward at that juncture, and it was a strategy that paid off, as Ward pitched nearly 63 minutes of shutout hockey, stopping 29 shots.
"The goalie change was more just to slow their momentum down. It's obviously not a reflection of the goaltender, but we didn't start on time, that's for sure," Peters said. "They were apologizing to Dobby before he even got within 50 feet of the bench."
"Part of being a professional is that you have to be ready at any given time," Ward said. "The body needed a little bit of time to warm up, but once I got in there, the adrenaline is pumping and you get comfortable as the game goes along."
-- All it took was one shot: on the Canes’ first shot of the game, Justin Faulk cut the Blues’ deficit in half. While Brad Malone provided net-front presence, Faulk’s point shot found its way past Jake Allen.
"We built a game, and that was good to see," Peters said. "The guys dug in. Got the big goal to give us a little bit of life, and we started to play harder and smarter."
That goal was Faulk’s 10th of the season, just the ninth time since the team’s relocation in 1997 that a Hurricanes defenseman has notched 10 or more goals in a season – and there are still 34 games left in the season. The 22-year-old All-Star defenseman ranks second on the team in points (29), and his 10 goals rank tied for third on the team.
From there, the Canes pushed back, looking more like the team that had won three in a row than the team that dug an early two-goal hole.
"Tonight they did what we did to them in their building. We jumped out to the early lead in their building, and they battled back. Tonight, it was the opposite," Eric Staal said. "We would have liked a better start, but credit to us, we battled back, and Cam did a good job coming off the bench."
-- Special teams wasn’t a factor in terms of quantity, but it was the difference-maker in terms of quality. Jeff Skinner received the game’s first penalty – two minutes for tripping at the 10:11 mark of the second period – and the Canes’ stellar penalty kill successfully denied the most threatening power-play in the league.
"Our guys did a great job killing that off," Staal said.
"It was huge," Peters said. "At the time, it was 2-1, and we kill a penalty."
Minutes later, with T.J. Oshie in the box for interference, the Canes’ power-play unit evened the score. AHL All-Star Ryan Murphy’s point shot deflected off a Blues defender in the slot and bounced past Allen, Murphy’s first goal of the season (in the NHL or AHL).
"Murph gets it through, and Jordan Staal is net-front," Peters said. "We've been begging for net-front traffic since September, and we finally have it. It ends up being a big goal, and it gets us a point."
"It was a good job by the power play getting us that one," Staal said. "That's a big goal to tie it up."
-- With the circus coming to town, the Hurricanes will now embark on an eight-day, four-game road trip that will take them to New York, Anaheim, Arizona and San Jose. Tomorrow night’s game in New York City, the third of the season, is a chance for the Canes to finish off a winning January on a positive note.
"The big thing is that we got a point out of this game," Ward said. "We can move on to New York and hope to get off to a better start and get a better result."
"It was a good job battling back tonight, and we've got to rebound and be ready to go tomorrow against the Rangers," Staal said.
"We've got to start on time and be ready, especially against good teams," Peters said. "This is going to be a great stretch now that we're going on the road. We play very good teams in tough buildings, and it will be a really good measuring stick."