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Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Canucks

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Eddie Lack’s return to Vancouver ended on a sour note when the Canucks scored the go-ahead power play goal with just 66 seconds remaining to send Carolina to a 3-2 loss.

Eddie Lack and the Hurricanes came up short in his return to Vancouver, falling 3-2 on a late power play goal by the Canucks.
Eddie Lack and the Hurricanes came up short in his return to Vancouver, falling 3-2 on a late power play goal by the Canucks.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Staal factored in on both Carolina goals, but the Vancouver Canucks scored on the power play with 1:06 remaining in the third period to grab a 3-2 victory.

Three Observations

1. For the first time in a while, Carolina seemed overwhelmed by the speed of one player. Bo Horvat could have easily scored four times Wednesday, and as it was he scored twice — including the late game winner — to propel the Canucks to victory. There have been times when the Hurricanes looked out of sorts against teams with a lot of speed up and down the lineup — every team has those nights — but I might have to go back to 2010-11 when Michael Grabner (then with the Islanders) scored in three of the four games against Carolina to find an individual player who so thoroughly dominated the Hurricanes with his speed. The crazy thing is Horvat isn't exactly known for being a burner like Grabner. It was truly a dominating performance by Horvat — and one Carolina would like to forget but needs to remember.

2.Eddie Lack’s return to Vancouver didn't go as planned. The Carolina goaltender, who spent two seasons with the Canucks before coming to the Hurricanes via trade at the draft, kept the Hurricanes in the game, stopping several breakaway opportunities and looking composed in the crease. But Lack's biggest weakness, his puckhandling skills, came back to bite on the game-winning goal. Lack attempted to settle a dump in behind the Carolina net, but only slowed the puck. The end result was the Canucks regaining possession and finally setting up shop after about 90 seconds of perfect killing by the Hurricanes. Then John-Michael Liles — who scored Carolina’s first short-handed goal in more than a year — ventured too far from his spot in the PK square and the Canucks found Horvat for the clincher.

3. Ron Francis’ job got a little harder this week, with Ryan Johansen heading to Nashville — considered a prime potential destination for Eric Staal — and rumors that the Canadiens, another possible suitor for Carolina’s captain, are hot to trot for disgruntled Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin. Staal’s high cap number and Francis's demands will likely make for limited interest, but someone will want Staal's services if the captain is willing to waive his no-trade clause. It's still possible Nashville could make a play — they have the cap space and, as Jim Rutherford showed in 2006, sometimes it takes multiple pieces — but their acquisition of a legitimate No. 1 center makes Staal less of a priority. A Drouin-to-Montreal deal would really make things interesting.

Number To Know

13 — Games in a row that Jordan Staal has not been on the ice for a power play goal against. The last time a team scored with the alternate captain on the ice for a kill was the Dec. 8 barn burner in Dallas: Patrick Sharp's power play goal with 19 seconds left gave the Stars a 6-5 win, an ending that felt a lot like Wednesday’s loss (though it was Jay McClement, not Staal, centering the PK at the time when the Canucks got the game winner). Staal has been on the ice for only seven power play goals against in 67:10 seconds of total PK time. The younger Staal is a huge reason Carolina's penalty kill has jumped to 21st in the league.

Plus

Jordan Staal — Staal's play centering Andrej Nestrasil and Joakim Nordstrom has been great, but the $6 million question has been when would 27-year-old start producing points. Wednesday was a step in the right direction. Staal created and assisted on Liles’ shorthanded goal that opened scoring, and then collected a loose puck in the slot to tie the game at 2 in the third period for his eighth goal. It marked his fourth multi-point game of the season and first since the coaching staff has made the 15-11-42 line a full-time thing. Staal has also been an ace on the penalty kill (see above).

Minus

Elias Lindholm — Lindholm’s play of late and Wednesday’s swap of former fourth overall picks Seth Jones and Johansen admittedly had me looking at where the other recent fifth overall picks — where Lindholm was selected in 2013 — were in their careers. Honestly, none of them have established themselves as NHL stars, and of the players picked in that slot the five years prior to Lindholm, three have been traded: Luke Schenn (2008, traded twice already after yesterday’s deal to Los Angeles), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Nino Niederreiter (2010) are all in different cities than the team that selected them. The other two, Morgan Rielly (2012, Toronto) and Ryan Strome (2011, Islanders) are probably in the same realm as Lindholm: untapped, but substantial, potential. If given the choice, would you trade Lindholm for any of those players straight up? Maybe, maybe not ... but it's not a slam dunk to deal him for any of them. So while Lindholm is struggling right now — his delay of game penalty was totally outrageous — patience might be the best course to take with a player who just turned 21 last month.