Ahos historic hat trick leads Hurricanes to key 5-1 win over Flyers

19-year-old Finn is first Carolina rookie since Erik Cole in 2001 to score three goals in a game

James Guillory—USA TODAY Sports
Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho celebrates his hat trick goal during Carolina's 5-1 win Tuesday over the Flyers at PNC Arena.

RALEIGH — If people didn’t know who Carolina rookie winger Sebastian Aho was before the All-Star break, they sure do now.The 19-year-old became the first Hurricanes rookie to register a hat trick in more than 15 years, leading Carolina to a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in a must-win game.Aho scored twice in the first period off of Flyers turnovers, then completed the hat trick late in the second period on the power play after Philadelphia grew frustrated with Carolina’s dominance.”It was a fun night,” Aho said.With the hat trick, Aho became the youngest person in Hurricanes history to record a hat trick and the first rookie since Erik Cole scored three in a 5-4 over the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 21, 2001. Current GM Ron Francis and assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour were among Cole’s teammates.”It’s a pretty long time. I don’t know what to say,” said Aho, who was 4 years old when Cole scored his.The game’s first goal came 7:11 into the first when Aho — playing on a newly formed line with Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm — got his 13th goal of the season.A Staal forechecking sequence led to the alternate captain finding Aho between the hashmarks. Aho walked in on Flyers goalie Steve Mason, deked in front of the crease and slid the puck in the net for a 1-0 lead. “We haven’t gotten any results recently and the lines were fairly consistent,” coach Bill Peters said of juggling his top three lines. “It happens all the time, they just grow stale. They go stale, for whatever reason. Then all of a sudden now when you change up lines, guys gotta communicate more on the bench, gotta communicate more on the ice because they’re unsure. And it freshens you up for a little while.”No line was better than Aho-Staal-Lindholm. “There really is no ceiling. He can decide that,” Staal said of Aho’s potential. “You can tell that he’s got such great smarts and speed and hands. There really is no ceiling, and I’m excited to watch him grow into hopefully the player that we all want to see, and I have no doubt that he can do it.”Aho scored a second time in the opening period when Carolina (22-20-7) forced another offensive zone turnover. Aho kept the puck at the blue line and fed it to Lindholm, who returned the favor on a give-and-go allowing Aho to one-time it in for a two-goal lead.Jeff Skinner also snapped his six-game pointless streak, giving Carolina a 3-0 lead at 16:28 of the second.”We need Skinny,” Peters, who had a long chat with Skinner during the morning skate, said. “We need our veteran guys — and he is a veteran guy. He’s a young guy but he’s been around a long time.”Ninety-seven seconds after Skinner got his 18th goal of the year, Aho finished off his hat trick.With Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux in the box for roughing, Lindholm found Aho again and the rookie picked the top corner on Mason to push the lead to 4-0 and give him 15 goals on the season.”He’s coming for sure,” Peters said of his rookie’s surge up the scoring chart.The Flyers (25-20-7) continued their parade to the box, and when linemates Matt Read and Nick Cousins each went off to give the Hurricanes a 5-on-3 power play, Aho fed Justin Faulk for a one-timer that pushed the lead to five.By then, all that was left was making sure the surly Flyers didn’t take any liberties with the Hurricanes. “Well, obviously you’ve got to stick up for each other when that happens,” Lindholm said. “I thought we did a good job once we went up 4-0. They’ve got to do something and we were prepared.”Brayden Schenn did score on the power play at 10:27 of the third period, his 100th NHL goal, to break Cam Ward’s shutout, but the goal was just the seventh shot of the night for the Flyers and first since 5:48 remained in the second period. In all, Carolina outshot the Flyers 28-16, shaking off their pre-break five-game losing streak to gain two points on the Flyers, the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 wild card team.”I thought the break came at a good time for us,” Lindholm said. “We didn’t play that well before the break, so it was good to get some rest, get everybody healed up a little bit. Now it’s fun to be back.”Notes: Aho is the second Hurricanes rookie to notch four points in a game this season. Brock McGinn had a goal and three assists on Jan. 14. … Carolina had two power play goals, the sixth time this season they scored multiple times with the man-advantage. … The four-goal margin of victory matched the largest of the year, the previous being the 5-1 win over Washington on Nov. 12. … The Flyers managed just eight shots at even-strength. … All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds finished with no shots on goal, just the second time this year he failed to register one (Nov. 8 shootout loss to Detroit).