What may have looked to be an extended dry spell turned out to be exactly what the Carolina Hurricanes needed to get back on track. A 6-4 win on the road against the Dallas Stars marked their first win in the Lone Star State since 1996 as the Hartford Whalers while also tallying a win in their first game of a five-game road trip.
After losing to the Winnipeg Jets November 13 to end their point streak, the ‘Canes lost some of their mojo as they only tallied 2 goals in the span of three games prior to Dallas.
The Boston Bruins are known to be a absolutely physically dominant team, but what ended up being a deciding factor was their ability to reduce the Hurricanes’ shots on net after the first period. They also managed a lucky bounce to go their way and a late goal by Patrice Bergeron in the slot in the first period.
Sunday against the San Jose Sharks, the Hurricanes managed 45 shots on net with 89 attempted. San Jose not only managed a win, but Troy Grosenick stopped all 45 shots to record a shutout in his first NHL start. A more size-efficient roster has worked in the favor of Hurricanes’ opponents as teams like Winnipeg completely dominate in all aspects as they have size as well as speed.
The outing against Dallas was a different story. They didn’t show up to play in the first period and more fundamental errors cost them four goals. An early cross crease pass from below the goal line from Vernon Fiddler to Jamie Benn and the Dallas Stars secured an early lead with less than two minutes underway in the game.
Jeff Skinner’s early second period goal was the climax of the story as a bad angle shot caught Kari Lethonen by surprise putting the Hurricanes within one. Patrick Dwyer would convert shortly after as a stretch pass bounced his way and managed to make a move and score backhand. Then, and only then, the Stars were called for a penalty with Victor Rask blasting his third of the season home on the power play while giving the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead with 3 unanswered goals.
Although the Hurricanes suffered from bad breaks in both games against the Bruins and the Sharks, both opponents were better defensively. It’s a consistent struggle for the Hurricanes to clean up the trash in front of the net whether it be a body or a juicy rebound. Several times Tuesday night Cam Ward was forced to make saves off rebounds that the defense couldn’t handle themselves. Protecting the front of the net is a fundamentally sound concept that the Hurricanes haven’t abided by and it’s shown that it will cost them. Bodies in front of the net to protect or to serve as a nuisance on the other end of the ice are needed areas of improvement. Also, coverage on the point was another issue as two goals came from a tip in front of the net that was a redirect from a shot from the point. Several times Alex Semin lost his coverage on his man and Ward bailed him out.
Still with room for improvement, the Hurricanes saw the Eric Staal’s leadership they should always see. Back checking and making plays away from the puck will eventually lead to a reward and it did for Staal. He couldn’t get the puck through to the empty net for his first hat trick of the season finishing the game with two goals and one assist.
For once it seemed like there was equal effort of the team throughout the night. The Nathan Gerbe, Riley Nash, Elias Lindholm line always appeared the more energetic line. Kudos to Bill Peters who knows what he wants to see and can make that change in the blink of an eye. In that regard, he shook lines up again putting Lindholm on a line with Staal and got the end result he was looking for.
One goal can change the momentum both ways and that was apparent against Dallas. The Canes hadn’t managed enough points on the board in recent contests, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday. Once the Hurricanes got their way going it they couldn’t be staggered until Dallas answered back. They played with the intensity that they need to win games. And they couldn’t have started this road trip on a better note.