Game Analysis: Predators At Hurricanes

Bryan Allen, left, could have been on a different team Tuesday, but wasn't dealt prior to the NHL's trade deadline. Instead, he was celebrating his first goal with the Hurricanes by after finishing off a breakaway by slipping the puck past Nashville's Anders Lindback. (Photo by Jamie Kellner)

The Carolina Hurricanes exacted revenge for an earlier loss, topping the Nashville Predators, 4-3, Tuesday to close out February with a 6-1-4 record. Eric Staal had a goal and two assists, and Jamie McBain, Tim Brent and Bryan Allen also scored for the Canes. Cam Ward got the win after missing three games with an injury, stopping 26 shots to finish the month 4-0-2.

Carolina moved into a tie for 13th place in the Eastern Conference with the win, and the Canes now have 61 points and a 24-26-13 record, eight points behind eighth place Washington and trailing division-leading Florida by 11.

Three Observations

1. The feast or famine nature of having McBain in the lineup reared its head Tuesday. On the one hand, McBain was assertive in the offensive zone, jumping into the play to earn several quality scoring chances and even getting his seventh goal of the season. But he later lost a puck battle with Nashville's Colin Wilson that led the Predators' first goal. McBain just turned 24 last weekend and is in the final year of his entry-level deal, facts that are hard to remember now that he's closing in on 150 career NHL games. McBain is still young and a work in progress — with experience one hopes that mistakes will disappear and we'll see more of the benefits of having him on the ice.

2. Drayson Bowman got just one shift in the third period and didn't play the final 16:16, but he still made an impact on the game. With the score tied at 2, Brandon Sutter made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and Bowman put a spectacular move on All Star Ryan Suter to draw a hooking penalty on Shea Weber. Carolina capitalized just 11 seconds later on the power play when Brent knocked the puck past Nashville goalie Anders Lindback to give the Hurricanes a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Bowman's stat line isn't one to laminate and frame, but he showed off his impressive skill set with move that drew the infraction.

3. Carolina went two for six on the power play, moving them to 17th in the NHL at 16.8 percent. Coach Kirk Muller was praised for his work with the Montreal power play during his days as an assistant with the Canadiens, so it's no surprise that the Hurricanes are having success with the man advantage. The team's penalty kill still resides near the bottom of the league (78.3 percent, good for 26th), but it hasn't crippled the team like it had earlier in the season (look no further than the last time Nashville and Carolina met), and Staal even triggered a goal by sending Allen on a breakaway as the defenseman exited the box on the Hurricanes' loan penalty of the night.

Number To Know

1.54 — Points per game for Staal in February, the best month he's had since March 2008 when he had 21 points in 12 games (1.75 points per game). His three points Tuesday extended his point streak to nine games and moved him into a tie for 26th in the league with 54 points. Staal also finished the month plus-11, the best month of his eight NHL seasons.


Plus

Bryan Allen — After the loss Saturday to Florida, Allen looked lost as he sat in his locker stall with mixed emotions. It was a crushing defeat and the trade deadline was just two days away, so one could surmise Allen was pondering both where this season went wrong and where his career was headed. But the deadline came and went without GM Jim Rutherford even inquiring if Allen would wave his no trade clause, and Allen's stoicism was replaced with jubilation when he scored the game-winning goal on an out-of-the-box breakaway. He would surely concede that he needs to work on his goal celebrations, but you're unlikely to see a bigger smile than the one Allen was sporting after his first goal with the Hurricanes. His last goal had been back on Jan. 26, 2011, when he was still with the Panthers.

Minus

Jaroslav Spacek — If there's a top candidate to be odd man out once Joni Pitkanen returns from injury, it's probably Spacek. Spacek lost track of the puck twice in front of the Carolina net on two of Nashville's goal and didn't see the ice in the final six-plus minutes of a tight game. It's not that Spacek is necessarily being outplayed on a nightly basis by McBain, but Carolina has a lot more to gain by giving the minutes to a young defenseman than a 38-year-old whose deal expires at season's end.

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