Eric Staal scored three goals in the third period in a time span of less than five minutes, and the Carolina Hurricanes outscored the Atlanta Thrashers, 5-4 in a struggle on Friday night. Staal was in a zone as his last two goals were unassisted. He beat goalie Johan Hedberg every which way but loose.
The game had a slow start for both teams as the players seemed to have a hard time getting into the contest. The Thrashers had no trouble while they were on the powerplay though as they opened the scoring with a Todd White score while with the man advantage. Atlanta would finish the night 3 for 3 on the powerplay as the Canes special teams continued to struggle.
The Canes evened the score as Chad LaRose chipped in a Frank Kaberle shot with just over a minute left in the period. LaRose had another good overall game and was buzzing all night. He also led both teams with three blocked shots.
About six minutes into the second period, Patrick Eaves scored his first goal of the season when Ray Whitney made a beautiful fake and drop pass to him. Eaves buried the open attempt over a surprised Hedberg.
Whitney had three assists for the night and now has points in five straight games.
The rest of the period belonged to Atlanta though as they scored two more powerplay goals, one with just three seconds left in the period. Cam Ward made several great saves, including on a couple of breakaways. He kept the Canes in the game when the rest of his team was a step or two behind.
In the third period, Eric Staal scored the first of his goals during a powerplay when he took the puck to the net and backhanded it through the goalie's 5-hole, tying the game. But just two minutes later, Bryan Little scored his third goal of the game for Atlanta on another tipped puck which found it's way past Ward. It seemed like the Canes might find some way to lose to this team again, even though the Hurricanes goalie had been playing well.
But Eric Staal had other ideas. On two separate occasions, he rifled the puck with a lightning quick release past Hedberg, who is probably still wondering where the shot came from. On the last, game-winning goal, Staal took the puck from end to end, skated by two defenders, and looked like a man who was not going to be denied.
The win kept the Hurricanes above the Florida Panthers in the standings, as they picked up a point against Tampa Bay tonight. Washington also won and maintained their 8 point lead.
Next up will be a rested Bruins team at the RBC tomorrow night.
The Canes penalty kill unit has not killed a penalty in two games now, (0-4). The powerplay allowed more scoring chances against than they were able to generate, even though Staal scored a goal. Special teams is still a work in process.
Scott Walker took a puck to the face, (above the bridge to his nose), got stitched up between periods, came back, and never missed a beat.
Rod Brind'Amour was pointless, but won 80% of his faceoffs, (20-25).
Staal's hat trick in less than five minutes is a tremendous feat, but does not even come close to the franchise record. Ray Whitney scored three consecutive goals against Boston in just 1:40 back in 2007.
Dennis Seidenberg took ill before the game and was unable to play. Wade Brookbank filled in sparingly (2:03).
Joe Corvo, Joni Pitkanen, and Tim Gleason each played over 26 minutes. Anton Babchuk played 20 minutes while Frank Kaberle had TOI of 15 minutes.
Cam Ward looked great at times, even though he allowed four goals.