With ten days to go before the trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes continue to give their general manager reason for pause before hanging the for-sale sign on the locker room door.
A two-goal performance from Jeff Skinner powered the Canes to a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks in front of 11,756 at PNC Arena on Friday night. Even the much-maligned Eric Staal, held without a point in eight straight games, finally found the scoresheet with an assist on the game-winner.
"Anything, at this point, would be getting me going," said the Canes' captain, who had seven shot attempts in the game including four shots on goal. "I wanted any point any way I could get it."
A fast-moving first period, with only six whistles to break up the flow of the game, saw the Canes take the lead seven minutes in as Chris Terry deflected a point shot from Noah Hanifin over Sharks goaltender Martin Jones' glove. Terry's goal was answered seven minutes later, appropriately on Star Wars Night, by Brent Burns, who resembles Chewbacca but skates slightly better.
The Canes took the lead for good at 12:25 of the second period courtesy of a rocket by Joakim Nordstrom, who wound up and unloaded a cannon shot from the blue line through Jones for a 3-1 lead. Nordstrom's goal made Friday's game the fifth straight with a goal from the line of Nordstrom, Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil, and Staal says that the pairing is really finding a rhythm lately.
"We've played some good hockey," he said. "All three of us take pride in our work ethic. Obviously it's nice to see a puck go in, but our ultimate goal is to play hard and to be hard to play against."
Cam Ward, now riding a ten-game personal streak without a regulation loss, had little to do in the second period, only facing four shots while the Canes piled 19 up at the other end. Ward, though, kept the game tied under a minute into the period by robbing Melker Karlsson on an unchecked wrist shot 12 feet from the goal.
The Canes, who did not surrender a power play to the Sharks and only took two minor penalties, both coincidental with San Jose infractions, got the game winner on a power play :39 into the third period. Eric Staal drove the net and tried to shovel the puck through Jones' legs, and Jeff Skinner collected the rebound. The goal was initially waved off for goaltender interference, but Canes coach Bill Peters challenged the call and it was overturned on review, much to Staal's relief.
"I was glad we have the opportunity to challenge," he said. "I was really confused with what he was trying to call there. I took it to the net trying to make a play, and I never touched the goaltender. It was the right call and a big goal."
Late goals by Skinner, again, and Jordan Staal put the game on ice, as the Canes improved to 9-3-2 in the back half of back-to-back games. An area that for so many years has been a thorn in the Canes' side has been much improved this year, and Staal credits the coaching staff. "I think [the key] has been our detail to our game," said the Canes' alternate captain. "When you don't have the legs, you rely on each other and on your system to help. You don't have to outskate a team when you can outsmart a team."
Bill Peters' team now heads into a stretch where they can find their rhythm, with off days alternating with game days for the next week. The Canes' coach thinks the schedule plays to the team's advantage.
"I think it's going to give us the opportunity to get into a playoff rhythm. Rest is a weapon too. My guys remind me of that, and I believe it too. When we're fresh and we skate, we're a good hockey team."