The Carolina Hurricanes skated their best game of the year so far as they took out the San Jose Sharks, 5-2 at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night. The visitors jumped out to a 3-0 lead, withstood a San Jose rally which closed the score to 3-2, then pulled away in the third period as five different players scored goals and 11 different skaters earned points.
Before the game, the Hurricanes placed special emphasis on driving to the net and that is exactly what they did, all night long.
Eric Staal opened the scoring as he took a pass from Chad LaRose during a two-on-one break and roofed it over Antti Niemi just 5:56 into the game. LaRose played his best game of the year and was buzzing the entire contest. The goal was shorthanded and was Staal's second tally of the year.
With about two minutes left in the period, Jeff Skinner broke in behind Niemi and tried a shot, but the puck bounced out to Tim Gleason, who threw it right back on net. Once again there was a huge rebound but Erik Cole buried this one to make it 2-0, Canes.
The Hurricanes started the second period much like they closed the first. After a turnover in the Shark's zone, LaRose got the puck to Jussi Jokinen who put a shot on net. Niemi kicked out another big rebound, this one coming out to Patrick Dwyer, who made no mistake, making the score 3-0.
The Sharks started to put more intense pressure on the Canes in their zone and were rewarded with a couple of Patrick Marleau goals. But Cam Ward continued with his fine play so far this season and the defense was able to help him out when he needed it, as they kept the score at 3-2 until the end of the second period.
The third period was almost all Canes. About two minutes in, Eric Staal stole the puck in the corner and made a perfect feed to LaRose, who was alone at the other side of the net. This time it was the winger's turn to put it in, making the score 4-2.
To their credit, the Hurricanes did not just sit back on their lead and wait for the Sharks to take the game to them. They continued to attack and ended up with 12 shots on goal that final period, the most they had in any period for the game.
Joni Pitkanen would score the final goal of the match on a blistering slap shot which beat Niemi high blocker side. Tom Kostopoulos left him a pretty drop pass which set the defenseman up for the open shot.
While the Hurricanes complained that they had no legs in Vancouver, they certainly found them in San Jose. They played a solid team game and every player contributed. Cam Ward was stellar in goal again and made 41 saves on 43 shots.
Next up for Carolina will be the Kings on Wednesday night.
Quick hits and stats:
- Chad LaRose was named first star of the game and had a team high 3 points, (1G 2A). He created havoc at both ends of the ice and made several nice passes to boot.
- Team faceoff percentage was at 34%, but Eric Staal had his best game of the year in the circle as he finished 13 of 25 for 52%. Tuomo Ruutu was 5 of 13, 38%, Patrick O`Sullivan was 1 of 8, 13%, Brandon Sutter was 0 for 4, 0%, and Patrick Dwyer was 0-8 for 0%.
- The Canes were out-shot 43-31 but had the better chances in this one. Joni Pitkanen had a team high 5 shots on goal.
- Tim Gleason, Anton Babchuk, and Pitkanen had 4 blocked shots each.
- Staal had a team high 3 takeaways, including the huge one which set up LaRose's goal.
- Tuomo Ruutu led the team with 4 hits. Kostopoulos had 3.
- Pitkanen led both teams with 24:37 of ice time, but as noted by John and Tripp, his shifts were shorter than normal which is something the coaching staff is trying to get him to concentrate on.
- Going back to last year, the Canes have won 11 straight games when they score first. (longest current streak in NHL)
- While the team technically won a road game in Finland, (although in reality that site was more neutral), this game can truly be considered a road victory. Last season, the Canes lost their first 13 road games before finally beating Pittsburgh on December 7, 2009.
- Last season, it took the Hurricanes 19 games before they won 3. They now have 3 wins in just 5 games.
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