Elias Lindholm assisted on all three Carolina goals, including Jeff Skinner’s game-winning power play tally in overtime, to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 win Tuesday over Pittsburgh at PNC Arena.
1. Cam Ward won the goalie battle vs. an unlucky Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury couldn't do much on any of Carolina’s goals: the first and last were essentially tap-ins after his defense failed him, while Kris Versteeg's goal in the second was one the strangest you'll see, ricocheting off Sidney Crosby’s stick, then off the glass, off Fleury's back and in the net. As for Ward, he quietly went about his business, improving to 14-11-4 (for comparison's sake, Fleury is 15-11-4) and winning his third straight.
2. Either Victor Rask is still ailing from the injury that kept him out of two recent games, or he has hit a bit of a wall. Coach Bill Peters limited Rask to just 12:51 Tuesday, and the center was mostly invisible and lost eight of 10 faceoffs on the night. Rask had a scoring lull in the middle portion of last season, having a mostly forgettable December and January before getting his wind back down the stretch. He has arguably been Carolina’s most consistent forward in the season’s first half, and if he can get back on track it will make the Hurricanes that much more dangerous.
3. The top line of Eric Staal, Versteeg and Lindholm are playing well. Skinner is back on the score sheet thanks to his game-winning goal. The Jordan Staal line continues to be essential to the team's success. The fourth line has been serviceable for eight to 10 minutes a night, along with the trio helping out on the penalty kill. The defense is, frankly, playing out of its mind. In net, Ward and Eddie Lack are both performing well. It's been a long time since Carolina could look up and down their lineup and feel pretty good about where they stand at every spot, and they may even have a surplus coming soon in the way of Phil Di Giuseppe and Nathan Gerbe. Part of the reason is Peters’ willingness to mostly stick to his lines. You'll remember that a line shuffle was in order for last Friday’s game vs. Columbus, with Eric Staal moving to the wing with brother Jordan at center, while the three Swedes were set to form a line. That was nixed when Rask was unable to play, and keeping the lines mostly intact (Riley Nash filled in as third line center for Rask) resulted in a win that night and two more since. Thursday’s opponent, St. Louis, is one of the league's best home teams (14-7-3), while Vancouver, who comes to Carolina Friday, joins Carolina at 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Both nights should be a further test of the Hurricanes’ mettle.
Number To Know
25:59 — Minutes played for Jaccob Slavin Tuesday, 2:18 more than the career-high 23:41 he played against Nashville on Jan. 2. That included nearly four minutes of special teams time for Slavin (1:35 on the power play, 2:07 on the penalty kill), duties that have only recently been given to him. On a night when Carolina lost the possession battle (51-35 in favor of the Penguins), Slavin was just a -3 despite joining Ron Hainsey on the defensive pairing that saw the most defensive zone draws against the dangerous Penguins. He also showed an ability to handle some the league's top forwards, most impressively chasing down Phil Kessel — one of the game's fastest players — to prevent a breakaway.
Elias Lindholm — When the three stars for the game were announced following Tuesday's 3-2 win, Lindholm's name wasn't included. We'll give him the much-deserved credit here instead. Lindholm assisted on all three of Carolina’s goals, including the overtime game-winner. Most impressive was his secondary assist that helped open scoring: Lindholm won a 3-on-1 battle behind the net and shuttled the puck in front to Versteeg, who found himself all alone with Eric Staal. Versteeg made a quick feed to the Carolina captain that Staal easily banged in for a 1-0 lead. Lindholm also led all Carolina forwards in hits (three) and won five of eight faceoffs. He now has six points (two goals, four assists) in the his last three games, all Carolina wins.
Brock McGinn — It's hard to find a negative on a night when Carolina got a big victory without any glaring errors, but McGinn has been unable to seize a spot the way Di Giuseppe did when he got his chance in Carolina’s top nine. McGinn did finish with two hits — one that was the biggest hit of the game on Brian Dumoulin — but he also had one errant pass that led to a Pittsburgh opportunity and, overall, did not contribute on the Hurricanes’ least effective line with Rask and Skinner.