The Carolina Hurricanes continued its winning streak, coming away with a fourth-straight victory by knocking off Anaheim 4-2 at the RBC Center Saturday. The Canes survived a late push by the Ducks when Carolina was called with three consecutive penalties in the closing minutes. Here are five observations from Saturday's win.
1. Speaking of those penalties, it's hard to argue with the first two. Joe Corvo’s hit on Corey Perry (more to come on this) certainly warranted a penalty, while Brandon Sutter's delay of game infraction for closing his hand on the puck — his first of two minors on the night, pushing his total to 10 after he had just two PIMs last season — was a text-book case of how to break the rule. The cross checking call on Eric Staal wasn't as obvious, but one can understand why it was called. That left Carolina with a lot of time to kill and few players to do it with. The Ducks, who pulled Jonas Hiller for a 6-on-3 advantage, managed to get one past Cam Ward during the ending sequence, but it wasn't enough as Corvo fired in an empty netter to seal the game.
2. Following the goal, Corvo, Perry, Sutter and Bobby Ryan engaged in a scrum that was clearly retaliation for Corvo's earlier hit on Perry. Perry was justified in his anger at Corvo, but he and Ryan risked suspension by engaging in a brawl inside of the final five minutes of the third period. No majors fighting were called, therefore no instigation minor — which means an automatic suspension unless the league overturns it — was levied. Again, we're not endorsing Corvo’s hit, but he's not known as a dirty player (something you could at least make an argument for with Perry) and it was good to see Sutter jump in the fray to defend his teammate.
3. Overall, it was a chippy game. The Ducks are one of the league’s most physically intimidating teams, and that comes from not only tough guy George Parros, but also their top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan, and defensemen Paul Mara and Sheldon Brookbank. But the Canes more than held their own. Tuomo Ruutu took several hits, but also divvied out his far share, finishing with five. The difference between Ruutu and every other player on the ice — Ducks and Canes — is that No. 15 never takes a hit personally, and also doesn't discriminate in who he'll bear down on. His ability to treat the physical aspect of his game as just part of what he needs to do makes him a threat every shift. While players like Perry and Erik Cole can be big hitters, they sometimes need the motivation to go out and do it. Not Ruutu: it's as if he's programmed to hit.
4. Staal and Ward were again Carolina's best players, with the captain finishing with a hat trick and Ward stopping 43 shots. Against a team with more firepower, the Hurricanes had their top threat outperform Anaheim’s (Getzlaf, who did finish with two goals but was mostly held in check by Sutter's line and the Corvo-Tim Gleason pairing), and Ward was clearly better than Hiller. Staal's 10 shots on goal were the most he's had this season — the last time he had more was in 2009 when he registered 11 in a 5-0 loss to Florida April 8, 2009. As for Ward, it marked the sixth time he stopped 40 or more shots this season, and he's 5-1 in those games. Last season he had no 40-save outings.
5. Slowly but surely, the Hurricanes are becoming respectable in the faceoff circle. Carolina still ranks last in the league at 42.3 percent, but the team won 58 percent of the draws against Anaheim (who is tied for 25th at 48 percent). Every player who took a faceoff for Carolina came out of the game with a winning percentage. Staal won 14 of 26, Sutter 15 of 27, Ryan Carter 10 of 19 and Patrick Dwyer 5 of 7. Jussi Jokinen won both his faceoffs, while Jeff Skinner and Sergei Samsonov each won their lone draws. The team was particularly effective in the offensive zone, winning 18 of 27 (66.7 percent).