Jordan Staal scored twice, once on the power play and then again in overtime, in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 3-2 win over Nashville on Tuesday at PNC Arena. Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist, and Vincent Trocheck added two assists in the win.
1. Carolina’s win streak is at six after another game in which the Hurricanes simply found a way to win. Nashville defenseman Dante Fabbro’s elbow to Brock McGinn — which deserves some kind of supplemental discipline — triggered the comeback (more on that below), and the Hurricanes continued their overtime dominance when Staal bulled his way down the left wing and fired a shot past Pekka Rinne (32 saves) for the win.
Carolina is now 18-6-1 with 37 points, third in the NHL and behind only Tampa Bay in the Central Division, and the Hurricanes picked up a win in the first of eight straight games against divisional opponents currently below the playoff cut line.
2. A rash of reckless penalties by the Predators let Carolina back in the game in the second period. The Hurricanes dominated the opening 20 minutes but were tied 0-0 entering the second, and Nashville quickly seized momentum with goal 61 seconds into the middle frame and added another at 13:37.
Then came the Predators’ penalties. But rather than looking for some frozen frontier justice for a couple questionable hits, the Hurricanes got Nashville where it hurt the most — the scoreboard.
Ten seconds after Ryan Johansen had scored to make it 2-0, Fabbro brutally elbowed McGinn to give Carolina a power play.
“To see a hit like that I think hit a nerve in some guys and really sparked us, and I think that’s what got us finally going in the right direction,” goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (21 saves) said.
Staal scored on a pass from Aho at 14:58 to cut the lead in half, and then Steven Lorentz drew a holding penalty on Jeremy Davies.
The Hurricanes went back to work, and Mathieu Olivier was then collared for a double-minor for high sticking that sent Nino Niederreiter to the room — the third Carolina player who went for repairs, along with McGinn and Andrei Svechnikov, at the hands of Nashville players in the period.
With a two-man advantage, Aho one-timed a Dougie Hamilton pass past Rinne to tie the game at 17:38.
“We have to make them pay,” Aho said of focusing any anger about dirty play into a positive for the team. “Sometimes it’s scoring a goal on the power play — it makes them hurt most.”
3. The penalty kill kept Carolina in the game. While the Hurricanes’ power play did damage with their opportunities, Nashville’s was stymied by Carolina’s stingy PK.
Thirteen different players logged at least 30 seconds of shorthanded ice time for Carolina, led by Brady Skjei (5:42) and Brett Pesce (5:16) on the back end and Staal (3:09) up front. The Predators were credited with just five shots on goal in 8:14 of power play time and finished 0 for 5 on the night.
The Hurricanes’ penalty kill is ranked 10th in the league at 82.2%, and their power play is even better — 29.8%, good for third in the NHL.
“I thought we weren’t good tonight as a group certainly,” Brind’Amour said, “but in certain areas — our penalty kill was huge, I felt, and the power play came through when it had to.”
Number To Know
47 — Hits for Cedric Paquette in 13 games with the Hurricanes after he had six Tuesday night. Only Staal (50) has more for Carolina, and he’s done it in 23 games and with twice as much ice time per game. Including his time in Ottawa, Paquette is averaging 21.19 hits per 60 minutes this season, second only to Vegas’ Ryan Reaves (23.42) among players with at least seven games played this season.
They Said It
“He was a monster in every aspect. The penalty kill I just said was great. Well, who’s part of that? Power play came through. Well, who’s part of that? And then, obviously, in overtime, who scores the goal? Who’s a part of that?”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on captain Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal, Hurricanes center — We live in a time when being a 30-year-old NHL player, specifically a forward, is a career death row sentence. Yet at age 32, Staal is instead having a career year. He won’t reach his career-high in goals, 29 as a rookie back in 2006-07, and may not top his 15-year best of 50 points because of the shortened 56-game season, but the Carolina captain has continued to be a defensive workhorse while putting up All-Star numbers.
His two goals Tuesday — the first on the power play to kickstart the Hurricanes, the second on a solo effort in overtime to win the game — give Staal 10 through 23 games, which is more than two of his previous eight seasons with Carolina, including last year’s eight. He’s on pace for 23 goals and 52 points, all while continuing to be one of the NHL’s best faceoff men, a shutdown defender and his team’s leader.
Staal is invaluable. Don’t take it from me, take it from his teammates.
“He’s always the hardest worker,” goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (21 saves in the win) said.
“He is a beast I out there,” Aho added, “and not a fun guy to play against, for sure. … I played I think it was my second year with him a lot, and I felt it was such an easy game for me. I think I had breakaways every game because he defends so well. He just lets you do your own thing up there.”
And then there’s the coach — a good, hard-working, two-way captain in his own right.
“To me, the way he plays is the reason why we’re kind of where we’re at right now,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s infectious, and he was the reason that we won, in my opinion.”
Warren Foegele, Hurricanes forward — Foegele took two minor penalties, a hooking call near the midway point of the first period with the game tied 0-0 and an offensive zone holding infraction with it tied 2-2 early in the third. Luckily for Foegele, the penalty kill bailed him out. For the night, he finished with one shot attempt, on goal, in 14:29 of ice time.