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Eric Staal Says, "Choose Me!": Hurricanes 6, Caps 3

With less than two days before Team Canada announces their roster for the Olympics, Eric Staal put in his best performance of the season as he knocked in two goals and had three assists while helping the Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Washington Capitals, 6-3 Monday night at the Verizon Center. 

It has been reported that Staal is "on the bubble" regarding making Team Canada, but he certainly did his best in this game to change anyone's mind who felt that he might not be worthy of selection.  Most notably, he was able to accomplish these numbers against Russian superstars, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.  Team Russia could very well be Canada's toughest competition in the upcoming tournament. 

The Canes came out as a team and out-skated Washington from the drop of the puck as they racked up 10 shots on goal in the opening period while jumping to a 3-0 lead.  The Caps only mustered four shots in that period as most of the action was in the home team's end.

Tuomo Ruutu opened the scoring as he knocked in a rebound off of an Eric Staal shot.  The clock was winding down, but the team was finally able to take advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity for their first such goal of the year.  There were just four clicks left in the advantage which was originally for a full two minutes because of a four minute high sticking call on Nicklas Backstrom and a hooking call on Mike Green just a minute later.

Halfway through the period, Staal buried his first goal when he knocked a puck out of mid-air past Jose Theodore.  Matt Cullen and Jussi Jokinen earned the assists as the new lethal line thrown together at the end of the Philadelphia game continued to do damage. 

Jokinen would finish the scoring in the period when he jumped on a loose puck in the slot and roofed it over the Caps goalie, making it 3-0.

But you just had to know that Washington was not going to fade away easily. 

Washington opened up the second period with a powerplay goal by Mike Green, but Brandon Sutter answered that goal just two minutes later when he knocked the puck in on a bang bang play after a faceoff in the Washington zone.

Sutter had a great all around game and battled hard in his own zone all night long. 

Washington would score again, this time on a fluke play as Andrew Alberts tried to scoop the puck toward his own net.  Cam Ward never saw it and the puck went right into the net, making the score 4-2.   The Caps would score another powerplay goal opening the third period, making it 4-3 as Ovechkin rifled one home, but Sergei Samsonov battled hard at the end of a powerplay for Carolina and knocked in his own rebound, after receiving a pass from Staal. 

Staal would then score on an empty-netter as he matched his career high point total for a single game.  He notched six points in a contest against Tampa Bay last season.

The win was just the second of the season on the road for the Hurricanes and it was the first loss to a Southeast Division rival so far this year for Washington.

Game Notes:

  • It should be noted that the Caps were probably still in a bit of shock over the recent news of trading captain Chris Clark to Columbus.  They did not look like themselves in the first period.
  • After blocking just six shots on Saturday night, the Canes blocked 24 shots against the Caps.  Tim Gleason led the way with five and Joni Pitkanen had four.
  • Pitkanen led the Canes with 29:09 of TOI.  He also finished with a +2, even though he did not score any points. 
  • Carolina had 18 hits led by Andrew Alberts, Aaron Ward, and Eric Staal with three each.
  • The team had 26 shots on goal led by Tuomo Ruutu with five.  Staal, Sutter, and Samsonov had four each.  Alex Ovechkin led both teams with eight.
  • Carolina won 56% of faceoffs as Matt Cullen finished at 63%, (15-24) and Brandon Sutter had 59%, (10-17).
  • Rod Brind`Amour had a -1 with just over four minutes of ice time.  That gives him a season total of -22.

Next up will be the first game of a home and home matchup with the Rangers on New Year's Eve.