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Game Analysis: Back To Back At Maple Leafs, Vs. Rangers

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The Carolina Hurricanes split their back-to-back games, defeating the Leafs Thursday in overtime, 1-0, then falling at home Friday to the Rangers by a 4-1 score.

Jordan Staal had the game-winning goal Thursday in Toronto, then put in another solid performance the next night in a 4-1 loss.
Jordan Staal had the game-winning goal Thursday in Toronto, then put in another solid performance the next night in a 4-1 loss.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina earned two points Thursday in Toronto behind Jordan Staal’s overtime winner and Eddie Lack’s first shutout with the Hurricanes, but then fell at home to the Rangers the next night to split their back-to-back games.

Three Observations

1. For those that love goaltending, the back-to-back set offered plenty to enjoy. With Cam Ward out with a concussion, Eddie Lack made a good first impression as Carolina’s unquestioned No. 1 goalie by registering an overtime shutout in Toronto. Lack's countryman Henrik Lundqvist then stole the show Saturday in Raleigh, making several stellar saves early until the Rangers capitalized on mistakes by the Hurricanes’ defense en route to a 4-1 win.

2. Elias Lindholm is still waiting for his offense to come around, but he's certainly noticeable each night in other ways, especially on the hits ledger. Lindholm finished with five hits Thursday, then backed it up with four more Friday. Every player goes through production ebbs and flows, but the fact that Lindholm continues to impact the game in other ways is a positive. Even if he's not scoring, Lindholm needs to be a presence.

3. The Eastern Conference is still cluttered, and Carolina resides three points behind a trio of teams at 53 points for the two wild card spots, tied with both Montreal and Ottawa at 50 points. With 49 games played already, the Hurricanes have played more than any team in the Western Conference through Saturday afternoon’s games. That makes the Canes’ climb slightly steeper. Sunday’s home game vs. Calgary is the first of four in a row against Western Conference foes, and it will be crucial for the Hurricanes to get as many points as possible — be it in regulation, overtime or the shootout — to make ground in the East.

Number To Know

12 — Consecutive games that Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom have been either even or plus on the plus/minus chart. Nordstrom has not been much of a point producer since joining Carolina — his goal Friday was just his third this season and fourth of his career — but the trio of him, Staal and Andrej Nestrasil continues to be the Hurricanes most consistent line.

Plus

Jordan Staal — Staal sealed two points for Carolina Thursday with his game winner — his third overtime goal of the season, and then was one of only three players Friday to finish on the right side of the plus/minus chart (linemates Nestrasil and Nordstrom were the others) in a lopsided loss. He was also dominant in the faceoff circle, winning a combined 18 of the 28 draws he took in the two outings.

Minus

Jaccob Slavin — It was a rough couple days for Slavin, who was credited with three giveaways in Toronto and turned the puck over after fanning on a pass in his own end on J.T. Miller's backbreaking goal that made it 4-1 for the Rangers (somehow, the official scorekeepers had Slavin with no giveaways in Friday's game). Slavin did still lead the team each night in blocked shots, combining for five while playing nearly 44 minutes in the two games.