|BUF||0||1||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|CAR||0||1||3||(0 - 0)||4|
Tracking the Storm: Analysis
The Carolina Hurricanes put forth one of their most complete, consistent efforts of recent memory tonight, as they downed the Buffalo Sabres in front of over 16,000 people at the RBC Center. It was the fifth straight game at home that the Canes have earned at least a point and their fifth win in their last seven home games. It’s also the second victory for the Hurricanes in three tries against the Sabres this season. “It’s always fun to beat them,” said Eric Staal, who had a goal and two assists tonight. “It’s a good rivalry.”
After having a breakout game against Toronto three games ago, Staal recalled a conversation he had with his brother, Jordan, after the Pittsburgh game on Dec. 27. He said that Jordan reminded him that his goals are often ugly. Staal scored one of those ugly goals tonight, as he took the puck off the end boards and banked it in off Ryan Miller. But, they still count the same in the end. “As he goes, we go,” Chad LaRose said of Staal. “He’s been playing great and leading us.”
Head coach Kirk Muller commended the first line for leading by example tonight. He said Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen and Staal’s hard play inspired the younger guys to do the same. That line was the best line tonight for the Hurricanes. “I felt good tonight,” Staal said. “I like playing with ‘Ruuts’ and Jussi.”
The Hurricanes scored two power play goals tonight – Justin Faulk’s second period shot from the point off a Staal face-off win and Brandon Sutter’s empty net tally. The Canes also netted their second 4-on-4 goal of the season when LaRose scored on a 2-on-1 rush. That goal – a well-placed wrist shot blocker side of Miller – turned out to be the game-winner. “I looked pass the whole time to see if [the defenseman] would give me a lane to shoot,” he said. “Once I knew he was kind of staying in the middle, I was shooting 100 percent from there on out.”
Going back to Staal, he was strong in the face-off circle tonight, winning 19-of-27 draws (70 percent). That helped the team to a 62-38 percent advantage over the Sabres in the game. Staal’s strong face-off stats were part of what led to Muller throwing him out on the penalty kill with Sutter. Cam Ward was solid in net for the Hurricanes, as he made 31 saves on 33 shots. He had a number of strong saves in the first period when the Canes’ defensive zone coverage was a little loose. “He was very good,” Muller said. “Right from the start, he was sharp.”
The Canes head to Nashville for a match-up against the Predators tomorrow night. As we’ve discussed in the past, the challenge now for the team is to take this effort with them on the road. Based on the mood in the locker room after the game, the team is confident they can do this. “You’ve got to win on the road in this league, and tomorrow is a good test for us,” Staal said.
Recap (Associated Press)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Carolina Hurricanes often say their play mirrors that of captain Eric Staal.
Now that their once-slumping All-Star center seems to be heating up, it's no coincidence that they're threatening to escape last place.
Staal had a goal and two assists to lead the Hurricanes past the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Friday night.
"As he goes, we go," forward Chad LaRose said.
LaRose scored the go-ahead goal with 11:50 left, Justin Faulk also scored and Brandon Sutter added an empty-net goal for the Hurricanes, who never trailed in winning for the fourth time in seven games.
"Everyone was engaged and involved in the game," coach Kirk Muller said. "Everyone felt good about their game, I think. I don't think we had any passengers. So there is a real good atmosphere on the bench (and) a lot of it was from the players. ... That's good to see. That's where it's got to come from."
One of the Hurricanes' most consistent performances from start to finish helped them earn points for the third time in four games, as they try to dig out of the Eastern Conference cellar. They moved two points behind Tampa Bay for fourth in the Southeast Division.
And Staal's surge is a big reason for that recent push.
Now skating on a line with banger Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, he has three goals and four assists in that four-game span. That's after he managed no goals and just three assists in the nine games before that - including six games in a row without a point.
"Some nights, you just have more time with the puck than the other nights, (when) you just don't have that much time and there's guys in your face," Staal said.
"I think tonight, our line, we were aggressive, we were physical. When you play with a guy like (Ruutu) - and obviously Jus can find those soft areas and make those passes - but (Ruutu) is a big, physical, strong winger and he's in on the D and kind of opens up space, and we controlled the puck well."
Jason Pominville was credited with a bizarre goal and added an assist, and Thomas Vanek also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost nine of 12.
Cam Ward made 31 saves for Carolina while Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots for the Sabres.
That these teams were involved in a tight game at the RBC Center wasn't much of a surprise: Five of their previous eight meetings here wound up going to overtime, and the Hurricanes won four of those.
For much of the way, this one appeared headed to OT, too - until LaRose broke a 2-all tie with his 4-on-4 goal midway through the third period.
LaRose skated down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush and sent a hard wrist shot over Miller's shoulder for his 11th goal and second in two games.
"The pass was blocked," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He just caught the far side with the shot."
The Hurricanes then killed a late penalty after Faulk was called for cross checking, and Sutter sealed it with his empty-netter with 1:31 left.
"They're only really good opportunities if you bury them," Ruff said. "We work to get position offensively. It was good. Not converting isn't any good."
Staal put the Hurricanes up 2-1 in the opening moments of the third when he collected a rebound off the backboards and slipped it behind Miller for his 10th goal.
But an odd bounce led to the Sabres' tying goal with 12:56 left when Pominville whacked the stick of Carolina defenseman Jamie McBain near the end line. That sent the puck past a disbelieving Ward.
That third-period flurry came after a first period that had no goals but plenty of scoring chances for both teams, and a second that included goals by each team in a 21-second span.
Faulk put Carolina up 1-0 with 17:21 left in the period. He blasted a slap shot past Miller for the Hurricanes' third power-play goal in nine games. Buffalo tied it moments later when Vanek chipped a rebound past Ward from point-blank range for his team-best 19th goal.
NOTES: Ruff said C Derek Roy will be out "for a little bit of time" with an unspecified upper body injury. ... Buffalo D Tyler Myers was back in the lineup after missing 19 games with a broken wrist. He rang the post with a slap shot about 11 minutes in. ... The Sabres fell to 13-6-4 against Carolina since the teams met in a seven-game Eastern Conference final in 2006. ... Carolina moved to .500 (10-10-3) on home ice. ... The Hurricanes lead the season series 2-1.
|PPG - Justin Faulk (3) ASST: Jussi Jokinen (19), Eric Staal (17)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Thomas Vanek (19) ASST: Jason Pominville (28), Jochen Hecht (3)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Eric Staal (10) ASST: Tuomo Ruutu (9), Tim Gleason (11)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Jason Pominville (14) ASST: NONE|
2 - 2 Tie
|Chad LaRose (11) ASST: NONE|
3 - 2 CAR
|PPG - EN - Brandon Sutter (10) ASST: Eric Staal (18)|
4 - 2 CAR
|Mike Weber Hi-sticking against Brett Sutter|
|Bryan Allen Interference against Patrick Kaleta|
|Tyler Myers Interference against Jussi Jokinen|
|Jussi Jokinen Roughing against Nathan Gerbe|
|Nathan Gerbe Holding against Jussi Jokinen|
|Brad Boyes Tripping against Eric Staal|
|Justin Faulk Cross checking against Marc-Andre Gragnani|
|Luke Adam Hi-sticking against Jay Harrison|
|SA: 34||TOI: 58:49|
|Saves: 31||EV: 26 - 28|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 5|
|SV%: .912||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 33||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 31||EV: 27 - 29|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .939||SH: 0 - 0|