The Hurricanes looked like a new team Tuesday night in San Jose, racing out to a 3-0 lead before fending off a Sharks comeback and winning 5-2. It was a crucial win for a team searching for both its legs and an identity early in the season. Here are five observations from Tuesday's game in San Jose.
1. We've said this before, but if Cam Ward continues to play like this the Hurricanes will be a playoff team. Ward made several dazzling stops after the Sharks pulled within one, and even continued to dominate after the game was under control. Allowing 43 shots to reach Ward is a definite concern, but the team did block 20 shots and Ward was certainly up for the increased workload.
2. Let's not discount Chad LaRose's three-point night — he finished his third-period scoring chance and was a defensive standout all night — but if he was the straw that stirred the drink for the Canes last night, Eric Staal was the gravity that kept the liquid in the glass. Staal was single-handedly responsible for LaRose's goal, forcing a turnover in the corner and feeding a pass to a wide open No. 59, and earlier finished off LaRose's pass on the first-period shorthanded marker that was created because of the duo's hustle up the ice. Furthermore, his faceoffs ... 13 of 25! Only Logan Couture — currently the Sharks’ best guy on the draw — severely outclassed him, winning all three of the faceoffs between the two. LaRose likely isn't the long-term solution on Staal's wing, but for a night the two propelled Carolina's offense.
3. Jeff Skinner might be bigger than your average 18-year-old when it comes to build, but he's still not ready to get into shoving matches with men twice his size. That's why it was good to see Erik Cole stand up for him when things got testy behind the San Jose net. It was a theme all night, with the Canes not backing down from the frustrated Sharks. Road trips may strengthen team unity, but nothing helps more than having guys stick up for one another.
4. The confidence issue that seemed to plague the team against Vancouver seemed washed away once Carolina surged to a 2-0 lead. It was most noticeable on defense, particularly on the power play. Joe Corvo and Jamie McBain looked like the players Carolina hoped they would be this season, sending crisp passes in the offensive zone and not over-thinking the play. Yes, the power play went without a goal in four chances, but the confidence built with the extra man seemed to spill over into the rest of their games. Overall, the defense factored in four of the five goals, and Joni Pitkanen — who also played his best game of the year — notched his first tally of the season.
5. Hockey produces its share of déjà vu moments over the course of a season, but it was strange to see Patrick O`Sullivan presented with an identical 2-on-1 chance to the one that he scored on vs. Vancouver Sunday. This time his shot sailed off the mark, but O`Sullivan's creative passing and slick stick-handling often overshadows what is a hard and accurate shot that can beat most goalies.