|PHX||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|CAR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
Eric Staal’s slump is officially over.
Mired in a miserable two-week stretch with just one assist in eight games, the All-Star MVP reclaimed his goal-scoring touch, notching his fifth career hat trick in Carolina’s 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Maybe it took playing in front of Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s greatest scorer ever, to get Staal back into a groove, or maybe he was just overdue. Whatever the case, his goals Friday night couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as the Canes fell behind for a third straight home game before rallying to a third straight victory.
Ray Whitney sealed the win with two goals over the final 2:21, the last one coming on an empty-netter with Staal streaking into the zone looking for a career-best fourth tally.
Whitney, the team’s good-humor man, laughed when asked why he didn’t pass the puck to Staal for an easy one.
“He was behind me,” Whitney quipped. “When there is no goalie he’s going to have a hard time beating me up the ice to get to that. No, I didn’t know he was there. I certainly would have let him have four if I knew he was there.”
Just a week ago the Canes were frustrated by a three-game losing streak and Staal’s lack of scoring punch. Now, all that stands in the way of a four-game home winning streak is Nashville on Sunday afternoon.
“The best thing about Eric is he doesn’t get too high,” Whitney said. “He’ll come to the rink tomorrow and won’t be on cloud nine because of his hat trick, and over the last nine or 10 games he hasn’t been too down either.”
Staal, who finished with eight shots, tied the scored twice after Phoenix took one-goal leads, then gave the Canes a 3-2 edge with a backhander off a Scott Walker centering pass with 45.1 seconds left in the second.
Staal had actually gone 12 games without a goal against a goaltender. His last goal came on Nov. 2 and was an empty netter against Toronto.
“Any time the best player ever is watching and coaching against you it definitely adds a little bit more to the game,” Staal said of Gretzky. “I wanted to show my stuff and be ready to play and ultimately help our team get a win.”
“When he breaks out he breaks out in a big way,” Whitney added. “He didn’t score them when it didn’t matter like I did, he scored them when they counted. He’s the biggest part of our hockey club.”
The night didn’t exactly start out on a positive note for Staal. It looked as if Carolina would escape two straight high-sticking penalties – one a four-minute offense against Staal for drawing blood – after killing off a 48-second 5-on-3 advantage, but the Coyotes struck with 38 seconds left on the Patrick Eaves penalty midway through the first. It was the third straight home game Carolina fell behind early on.
Staal then broke out of his eight-game slump with 4:44 left in the first when he parked in front of Ilya Bryzgalov during a scramble and slammed home a rebound when a backhander from Sergei Samsonov hit him in the chest and dropped down at his skates.
Staal’s goal came after a lull in which Carolina recorded just one shot in 10 minutes.
However, the Canes’ lead was short-lived when Shane Doan scored less than two minutes later, capitalizing on an Anton Babchuk turnover off the boards for a 2-1 lead. Doan had just one goal in 13 career games against Carolina before notching his team-leading 11th of the season.
Staal’s second goal came with 12 minutes left in the second, his first shot deflected behind the net to Joni Pitkanen, who centered to Staal. The 6-foot-4 center was able to score despite being draped by a Phoenix defenseman.
“It was a matter of keeping it positive, keep attacking,” Staal said of his slump. “I was able to get in those high traffic areas and I’m a big body, I’ve got a lot of reach, so I tried to focus on getting to those spots and some of the guys made some great plays for me to capitalize on.”
Staal’s three goals gives him 132 for his Carolina career, moving him past former linemate Erik Cole and into sole possession of third all-time behind Jeff O’Neill (176) and Rod Brind’Amour (156). He also moved past Cole for the most hat tricks for Carolina. The franchise record is nine by Hall of Famer Ron Francis.
“It was Eric Staal’s night,” said Cam Ward, who stopped 26 of 28 shots for his seventh win of the season. “It was a matter of time before Staaler was going to break out and he played a heck of a game. I’m extremely happy for him.
“Never once did anybody in this locker room worry about Eric,” added Ward. “Even when he’s not scoring he brings something to the game and I thought he played really well defensively, too. I know he’s been frustrated, but he’s going to get a lot more this year, I guarantee you.”
NOTES: Phoenix scored just 10 first-period goals in 17 previous games before notching two against Carolina on 15 shots. … The Hurricanes have allowed a power-play goal in six straight games. … The Canes have led just six times after the first period in 20 games. … Staal moved within four points of 300 for his career. … Pitkanen had his first three-point game with the Canes, assisting on Staal’s second and third goals and Whitney’s second. … Brind’Amour came into the game having won 62.3 percent of his faceoffs. He took 19 of 25 in the circle against Phoenix. … Dennis Seidenberg blocked four more shots to give him 45 on the season.
|PPG - Kevin Porter (4) ASST: Keith Yandle (9), Ed Jovanovski (3)|
1 - 0 PHX
|Eric Staal (6) ASST: Sergei Samsonov (4), Tuomo Ruutu (6)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Shane Doan (11) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 PHX
|Eric Staal (7) ASST: Joni Pitkanen (6), Niclas Wallin (8)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Eric Staal (8) ASST: Scott Walker (3), Joni Pitkanen (7)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Ray Whitney (6) ASST: Rod Brind'Amour (7)|
4 - 2 CAR
|EN - Ray Whitney (7) ASST: Scott Walker (4), Joni Pitkanen (8)|
5 - 2 CAR
|Eric Staal Hi stick - double minor against Ed Jovanovski|
|Patrick Eaves Hi-sticking against Kyle Turris|
|Anton Babchuk Hooking against Mikkel Boedker|
|Peter Mueller Hooking against Brandon Sutter|
|Martin Hanzal Hooking against Eric Staal|
|Martin Hanzal Hi-sticking against Niclas Wallin|
|SA: 32||TOI: 59:08|
|Saves: 28||EV: 26 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .875||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 28||TOI: 59:52|
|Saves: 26||EV: 20 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 6|
|SV%: .929||SH: 1 - 1|