RALEIGH — The only real drama Tuesday at PNC Arena was with the official scorer. Justin Faulk had a hat trick and the Hurricanes scored three first period goals — including the second that was credited to Faulk, taken away, then given back — as Carolina blitzed the road-weary Los Angeles Kings for a 7-3 win in front of 12,805 at PNC Arena.
Faulk, who came into the game with just four goals after scoring 17, 16 and 15 in the past three seasons, had his first career hat trick with three consecutive goals in the game’s first 22 minutes.
“I wasn’t going to stop shooting, I guess, if that’s what you’re saying,” Faulk said of getting his goal scoring back on track. “I didn’t think it all of a sudden went away like that, that I wasn’t scoring as much. But I was still going to keep shooting, keep trying to get my chances and obviously hope that they go in, and tonight it was one of those nights.”
Faulk and the Hurricanes did much of their damage on the power play, scoring three times in a span of 10 minutes with the final goal coming on a beautiful fake slap shot followed by a lethal wrister from Jeff Skinner for the game’s fifth goal.
The Hurricanes and Kings exchanged first period penalties, setting up some early 4-on-4 play. With Carolina sending out their top penalty killing unit early in preparation for a brief L.A. power play, Jordan Staal found a streaking Jaccob Slavin, who deked to his backhand and beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for his fifth goal of the season to make it 1-0 just 6:40 into the game.
Just over two minutes later, the Hurricanes got a second even-strength goal from their blue line.
Faulk helped keep the puck in the zone along the right boards, then eventually got it back for a wrist shot that snuck through Quick and made it 2-0 at 8:56 of the first. The goal, initially credited to Faulk, seemed to change direction on its way to the net and was given to Teuvo Teravainen during intermission — after Faulk had already scored a second time.
The second goal came when Sebastian Aho, starting at center for the first time this season, drew a penalty using his speed up the ice, then found Faulk on the ensuing power play for a one-timer to make it 3-0 at 17:43.
Before the correction back to Faulk on his first goal was even announced to the crowd, Faulk got his third.
Just 77 seconds into second frame, Faulk completed the natural hat trick. With Carolina again on the power play, Aho took a shot that was blocked, recollected the puck and fired it to Faulk at the point. The one-timer found the back of the net again, chasing Quick (16 saves) and making Carolina’s co-captain just the 10th defenseman in NHL history to score a natural hat trick — giving him his first three-goal game, he said, since peewee hockey.
“He was shooting it, he was feeling it,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said of Faulk. “He’s got a real good release and a real good shot.”
The Kings attempted to fight back, scoring twice in the second half of the middle period on Cam Ward (27 saves) and again with under 14 minutes remaining in the game to cut the lead to two. But Skinner would strike again.
Phil Di Giuseppe forced a turnover at the Kings blue line and sprung Skinner for a wide angle drive to the net. Skinner carried the puck in and lifted a backhand off Darcy Kuemper’s left shoulder and in for his second goal of the game and second of the night on the Kings’ replacement netminder with 5:45 remaining.
“A couple big plays in the third,” Peters said. “I thought the Di Giuseppe forecheck on the Skinner goal was huge.”
Aho’s 21st goal of the season, on a breakaway and assisted by Teravainen, gave both players three-point nights.
The win capped off Carolina’s eight-game homestand with a victory, giving the team a 5-2-1 record during its prolonged stay at PNC Arena. It also kept them in the second wild card spot with 63 points (27-21-9), one point ahead of Columbus (4-1 winners at the Islanders, who slid three points back and will come to Raleigh on Friday) and one behind New Jersey, Thursday’s road opponent.
“I think we realized we were potentially letting an opportunity slip through our fingers, right? Right through our hands for no real good reason,” Peters said when asked if his team’s two-game skid during the homestand — and his subsequent media rant — served as motivation for the last four games. “So it’s one thing — you’re not going to go undefeated from here to the end of the year, and there’s going to be bumps in the road. But as long as you’re competing and giving yourself a chance, putting you’re best foot forward, then you can live with it.”
Notes: The Hurricanes recalled Patrick Brown from the Charlotte Checkers following the game. … Aho scored for the fourth time in six games. … Kings forward Dustin Brown was serving a one-game suspension and did not play. … L.A. forward Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore were traded to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson following the game. … Skinner has three goals in his last two games.