The Carolina Hurricanes registered a season-high 46 shots on goal and, despite squadering a two-goal lead for the second straight game, earned two points Tuesday in a shootout victory over Colorado.
1. Going 4-2-1, which the Hurricanes have done with Jordan Staal in the lineup this year, doesn't knock anyone's socks off, but there's no denying that this is a different Carolina team with No. 11 in the lineup. More specifically, this is a different team with the Staal brothers riding shotgun to each other on the Canes’ top line. Since Jordan returned to the lineup Dec. 29, Eric Staal has scored six times in eight games (note: Jordan missed the Dec. 31 game at Pittsburgh, and Eric scored), and he had the game-winner in the shootout vs. Boston. Even when the Jiri Tlusty-Eric Staal-Alexander Semin line was at its best in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, it didn't look as dominant as the Staals squared have of late. They are, simply put, an absolute burden for the opposition. The combination of size, reach and speed is tough to handle shift after shift, and you can see third-wheel Elias Lindholm growing more confident as their running mate.
2. Victor Rask and Lindholm each buried their shootout attempts, the first conversion for both in their brief NHL careers. It was an interesting move for coach Bill Peters, who has leaned on Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner of late (one assumes Semin, who Peters said earlier in the season would be in his shootout trio every time, was set to be the anchor). Both Swedes showed off their slick hands, leaving Calvin Pickard flailing on the ice — and leaving Peters looking like a genius.
3. Anton Khudobin probably wants the John Mitchell game-tying goal back, but he still has plenty to be proud of. It took Khudobin until Dec. 23 to get his first win (he was 0-8-2 to start the year), but he has since run off three straight wins, all in the shootout. Khudobin has stopped 65 of 69 shots (.942 save percentage) in that stretch, plus all eight shootout attempts he's faced. He is now 3-1 in the shootout with just one goal allowed on 11 attempts (.909 save percentage, seventh in the NHL).
Number To Know
23 — Seconds of power play time the Hurricanes finished with in two games against the Avalanche this season. Carolina didn't get a power play opportunity Tuesday until the end of overtime, nearly winning before the shootout when a Justin Faulk shot beat Pickard and rang the post. That was more of a chance than they got Nov. 22 in Denver when referees Brad Watson and Gord Dwyer called no infractions on the Avs. The refs (Dan O’Halloran and Rob Martell) were different Tuesday in Raleigh, but the result was nearly the same. One would think Carolina (second-fewest penalties in the league at 7.7 per game) would be the ones with the special teams advantage over Colorado (21st, 10.5 minutes per game), but neither game went that way.
Ryan Murphy — Has Murphy finally turned the corner? Let's not go wild here, but the answer could be yes. Murphy played arguably his best game of his NHL career Tuesday, the highlight being his perfect return pass to Jordan Staal on the first goal of the game. Murphy finished with seven shot attempts and three on goal (both highs among Canes defensemen) and now has points (four total) in a career-best three straight games.
Nathan Gerbe — It's hard to dislike the effort Gerbe brings to the rink every night, but there's no denying that the NHL’s smallest player is struggling. Despite assists in his previous two games, Gerbe is still mired in a 20-game goal drought, and the line with him, Rask and Jiri Tlusty is, while defensively responsible, not jelling. Perhaps the return of versatile Andrej Nestrasil will shake up the third line, but the question then becomes who sits out with the fourth line playing so well.