Tracking the Storm: Analysis
So many storylines to track in this game, and that’s a great thing. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Washington Capitals 5-0, their second straight shutout over the Caps after a 3-0 win here a month ago today. Justin Peters recorded his first National Hockey League shutout, making 17 saves. Eric Staal extended his point streak to six games with two goals and an assist, and broke a record doing so. “We came out hard, we were focused and it was a good performance by everybody,” head coach Kirk Muller said. Though he didn’t see a whole lot of work, Peters still earned a well-deserved shutout, his first in the NHL and first at the professional level since Dec. 11, 2009 in a 3-0 win with the Albany River Rats (AHL). He made 36 saves in that game and has six career AHL shutouts. Though the Caps were pretty awful tonight, also give credit to the Hurricanes’ defense, which denied a number of would-be-quality scoring chances. “Getting the shutout, I was just a beneficiary of the effort these guys put in,” Peters said. “It feels great. I’m going to enjoy it right now, and we’ll be back to work tomorrow.”
Staal now leads the team in goals with 18 and points with 49. His shorthanded breakaway goal was a beauty and gives him a franchise-leading 12 for his career, passing Dave Tippett (11). All the while, he extended his point streak to six games (6g, 5a). “Staal is a horse right now,” Muller said. “He’s the guy. When he goes, the whole team goes. He’s really elevated his game in the last three games, and it’s great to see him get rewarded for it.”
Jiri Tlusty extended his point streak to eight games, the longest of any Hurricane this season and equaling the longest point streak of last season set by Staal. The franchise record is 11 games, accomplished twice, most recently by Staal during Jan.-Feb. 2010. Staal specifically mentioned his chemistry with Tlusty in his postgame comments, and the two have developed a nice combination, even with the rotating opposite wing. Justin Faulk had a terrific fight near the conclusion of the second period. While you wouldn’t normally want your 19-year-old rookie dropping the mitts, Faulk stood up for himself and held his own against Troy Brouwer. The bench loved it, and Washington still couldn’t manufacture any momentum. “I think it’s just what happens sometimes. We kind of had some words with each other, got upset with each other and the gloves came off,” he said. “I tried throwing a few. It was all right. It was fun.”
Also deserving of a mention with officially just one fight and a minor tussle is Derek Joslin, who has stepped into the role of a grinding, fourth-line winger with no hesitation and no hiccups. In a way, his play is symbolic of everyone on the team fitting into a certain role. “He just wants to play,” Muller said. “We’ve got a bunch a guys right now just scratching and clawing and just doing their roles.”
The Canes were all over the Capitals the entire night, and the first period was the best 20 minutes Carolina has put forth this season. This was a statement game and an imposing way to begin a six-game homestand. Now having won three straight and six of their last seven games at home, the Canes are playing their most confident and complete hockey of the season heading into the final weeks of February. “If you ask me what the team is all about right now, it’s that they’ve all sacrificed to try to win,” Muller said.
Recap (Associated Press)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - With one of their cornerstones playing like this, the Carolina Hurricanes certainly didn't miss their other one.
"I felt like we really initiated the game, right from the beginning, from the first shift ... and from then on out, we really controlled it and didn't really give them anything," Staal said. "And when we did, Petey was solid. That's just a good, solid effort by everybody."
Peters needed to make just 17 saves to win his second straight start while filling in for Cam Ward, an All-Star in 2011 who was out with an undisclosed lower body injury.
"It was a lot of fun to watch," Peters said. "Me getting the shutout, I'm just the beneficiary of the effort that these guys put in. I can't say enough about the effort."
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he hopes Ward can return to play against Anaheim on Thursday night - but that doesn't seem to be quite as imperative now that Peters has been solid.
"It's nice to know that (from) a confidence level, whomever we slide in there, we now know that we have a chance to win," Muller said. "That's all we ask of our goalies - give us a chance to win every night. (Peters) did his job."
Jiri Tlusty had two assists, giving him points in a team-best eight straight games. The Hurricanes led 4-0 after 40 minutes and won their third in four games, improving to 11-3-1 in their last 15 at home.
Tomas Vokoun allowed two goals on seven shots before he was pulled at 5:09. Michal Neuvirth made 30 saves but gave up the final three goals.
The Capitals have lost five of six, and in two visits to Carolina since coach Dale Hunter took over for Bruce Boudreau, they have been outscored 8-0.
"Normally, you can try and take some positives out of games," Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. "Tonight, nothing. You can't wipe it clean because you have to take it in, make sure you know what you're doing wrong, make sure you know why you lost."
Meanwhile, Staal is playing his best hockey of the season, and it's not a coincidence that the Hurricanes are, too.
After spending most of the season in last place, Carolina has pulled even with Buffalo for 14th place in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes are one point behind fourth-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
"Hopefully (the team's confidence) continues to stay where it's at, or go higher," Staal said. "That's the biggest thing, the confidence in our game and the confidence in the way that Kirk wants us to play. We're getting results because of the way we're playing, and that's always a good feeling."
Staal has six goals and five assists during his six-game scoring binge. His first goal came 43 seconds into an elbowing minor to teammate Derek Joslin while the Capitals were trying to move the puck on their power play.
When diving defenseman Dennis Wideman couldn't get to a pass at the blue line, Staal chased down the puck and beat Neuvirth on a short-handed breakaway to put Carolina up 4-0 with 14:04 left in the second.
His second goal came with 14:09 left, when he scored on a snap shot from the right circle.
But by that point, this one had already been decided after the Hurricanes took a 2-0 lead 5:09 in.
"Weren't ready to play," Brouwer said. "Gave up chances. Gave the puck away. Didn't get the puck in deep. Just all-around embarrassing."
Tim Brent uncorked a slap shot on a power play, and the long rebound sailed into the right circle. Faulk was there to slide it under Vokoun's pads at 3:39, giving the 19-year-old defenseman power-play goals in consecutive home games.
Stewart made it a two-goal game 1:28 later with a goal in transition, taking a feed from Staal and burying a shot. Nodl stretched it to 3-0 with 29.6 seconds left in the period when he one-timed a pass past Neuvirth.
NOTES: Washington C Alex Ovechkin went to the dressing room with about 6 minutes left in the second period because of an equipment issue, Hunter said. Ovechkin was back for the start of the third. ... Washington didn't register its 10th shot until there were about 4 1/2 minutes left in the second. ... Capitals C Matt Hendricks and Joslin fought twice in a span of 2:04 of the second. They each received 2-minute roughing penalties after the first fight - then brawled again immediately after they left the penalty box. ... Thirteen of the teams' previous 18 meetings were decided by one goal.