The Hurricanes hit the road for the first of a two-game set in Dallas and came away with two points, winning 5-3 Thursday night.
Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal had a goal and an assist, Brock McGinn and Nino Niederreiter scored timely goals, and Warren Foegele added an empty-netter in the final minute of the win.
1. Good teams find a way to win, and that’s what the Hurricanes did Wednesday. Carolina looked like it was in trouble in the second period and then got a goal from McGinn in the final minute to tie the game.
Then as Dallas was leaning on the Hurricanes in the third trying to regain the lead, Dougie Hamilton made a tape-to-tape pass to Niederreiter, who faked out Stars goalie Anton Khudobin (27 saves) to give Carolina the deciding goal.
From there, the Hurricanes held on to beat the Stars for the third time in as many tries this season.
“I feel like great teams find ways to win, even if you don’t have your best,” defenseman Brett Pesce said. “I’m glad we’re pulling two points out of these games, but it’s just encouraging that we have that much more to give. So when we put it all together, we’re going to be a more serious threat.”
Carolina definitely didn’t have its best, particularly in the first two periods when the Hurricanes made mistakes that led to goals, were shaky in net and took five penalties — including three in the offensive zone and a too many men penalty that led to a 5 on 3 for the Stars and a goal.
But a win is a win, and it’s especially satisfying when the third period goes in your favor.
“We found a way to get two points,” Staal said. “It wasn’t pretty, and we can be better in a lot of situations and take less penalties and all those things, but we’re happy with the win.”
2. Staal continues to be an offensive force. The Carolina captain took the team lead in assists with a nifty backhand pass to Aho on the power play that opened the scoring, giving Staal eight assists in eight games this season.
Staal then added his third goal of the season, finishing off a nice Andrei Svechnikov pass in the second period to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.
“It’s nice to pop a few in early and get the confidence going,” he said. “And much like a few guys on our team — Nino, Ginner — just feeling confident, playing really well. I’m just kind of trying to ride it as best I can.”
Staal was also quick to credit his linemates, specifically Svechnikov, for boosting his offensive numbers.
“These plays he’s been making, they’re the same plays he’s been making over and over for years,” Hurricanes coach Brind’Amour said. “Just we’re connecting on (them). … Right now, he’s getting his due.”
There were seasons in his career that Staal probably should have received more consideration for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. Unfortunately, the award has long been more of a “best two-way forward” rather than it being decided on mostly defensive merits.
Conventional wisdom would say Staal can’t keep up this torrid pace — or even do so at a two-thirds clip — but I also would have thought Staal would have returned to Earth by now. A 40-point season could finally get Staal an honor he’s long deserved.
3. Petr Mrazek, just over a week removed from thumb surgery, took the ice Thursday afternoon for the first time since he was hurt Jan. 30 in the first period of Carolina’s first game of the season against the Stars.
After two periods, Brind’Amour was probably checking in to see when Mrazek will be ready to return as James Reimer (34 saves) looked shaky in the first 40 minutes. But just like Carolina found timely goals throughout the night, Reimer stepped up in key moments in the third.
Reimer didn’t allow a goal in the final frame, stopping all 10 shots he faced to earn the win and improve to 6-1-0 on the season despite allowing at least three goals in each of his last five starts — including 13 in the last three games. The rebounds that were available to the Stars the first two periods? Replaced by saves and frozen pucks.
“Reims just played great,” Staal said. “He made some big, big saves that kept us in that game, and we found a way to get two.”
With a day off before the back end of the two-game trip to Dallas, Brind’Amour might be wise to go back to Reimer to see if he can improve to 4-0 on the year against the Stars.
Number To Know
4 — Games in a row with a goal for Brock McGinn, who scored his fifth of the season with 27 seconds left in the second period to make the game 3-3 heading into the third.
They Said It
“There’s so many decisions that go in your head when you go on a breakaway. There’s so many things to think about it. Do I shoot? Do I go to my backhand? Like, what do I do? And then you try and make him bite and then make a quick move at the end and hopefully it works out, and I’m lucky it did.”
— Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes forward, on what went through his mind as he went in on a breakaway for the eventual winning goal.
Brett Pesce, Hurricanes defenseman — Neither Dougie Hamilton nor Jaccob Slavin — specifically the latter — have looked like themselves this season, but that hasn’t stopped No. 22 from looking like a No. 1 defenseman.
Not only did Pesce have two assists Thursday in Dallas, but he and partner Brady Skjei were Brind’Amour’s go-to pairing. The tandem played 23-plus minutes each and was called on to try and kill a Stars 5-on-3 power play in the second period (Dallas did score, however).
Pesce has looked as good as he ever has, which is somewhat surprising considering he’s just over 11 months removed from right shoulder surgery. Returning from shoulder surgery is notoriously difficult, and players often take a full season after the surgery to start to look like themselves again.
For Pesce, the surgery has been a boost because of the lingering issues he had with his shoulder.
“I’m more confident than ever with my shoulder,” Pesce said after the game. “It was a little bit unstable there for a few years. Obviously, I put all my trust in the doctor who opened me up. So yeah, it just feels sturdy, and I feel good out there.”
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes center — It was a rough outing for the rookie, who played a total of 5:18 and didn’t see the ice in the third period. He took an offensive zone holding penalty in the first period, won just two of seven faceoffs, and made a bad decision on Dallas’ first goal, going down on the ice in the goal mouth rather than attacking goal scorer Mark Pysyk.
“We had some tough matchups and I just want to make sure I didn’t get caught on one,” Brind’Amour said of Geekie not playing in the third. “So we definitely had to shorten the bench in this game.”
It’s not the end of the world for Geekie, who seems like he’s been around forever but has now played just 11 NHL games. With Jordan Martinook playing well on the wing, it might benefit the Hurricanes to stick with Geekie for now.