RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes have been looking for a steadying force as they wind down the regular season.
Why look any further than the captain?
Jordan Staal had his first hat trick with the Hurricanes in his 654th regular season game with the franchise, helping Carolina survive a goal-happy first period and surly second for a 5-2 win over the Ducks in front of 17,342 Sunday at PNC Arena.
“I just tried to play my game, and that’s being reliable and being strong on both ends,” Staal said. “When the puck starts going, it always feels good, but I continue to just play that solid game that everyone needs to play to help us win.”
Andrei Svechnikov summed up Staal — who now has five goals and two assists in the last four games — in six words.
“He’s been playing like a machine.”
Staal scored an insurance goal with just over six minutes left in regulation, cleaning up a rebound off a Nino Niederreiter one-timer for his second goal of the night to give the Hurricanes a two-goal cushion.
Then, with Ducks goalie John Gibson (38 saves) on the bench for an extra attacker, Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo got the puck out of the corner in Carolina’s end and passed to Jesper Fast. Fast one-touched the puck to Staal, who curled around Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and hit the net from his own blue line for his first three-goal game since the 2012 playoffs with the Penguins and the fourth hat trick of his 16-year career.
“I try not to,” Staal said of thinking about getting his third goal of the night once Anaheim’s net was empty. “It was kind of in the back of my mind I guess a little bit.”
The win improved the Hurricanes to 47-18-8 with 102 points, two in front of the team they visit Tuesday, the New York Rangers, in the Metropolitan Division. Six of Carolina’s final nine games are on the road, with four in the Northeast’s tri-state area along with a three-day trip that includes stops in Colorado and Arizona.
“We haven’t had our best hockey of late, the past couple weeks,” said Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who was playing in his 500th career NHL game. “And so to get a win where we played well, for the most part, it’s huge.”
When Staal wasn’t scoring — he had his first goal 5:07 into the game, banging in a pass from Niederreiter to give Carolina a 2-0 lead — Andrei Svechnikov was creating mayhem.
That started early when Svechnikov redirected a Brady Skjei shot past Gibson just 77 seconds into the game for his 28th goal of the season. He then assisted on Jordan Martinook’s fourth goal of the year as part of a wild first period that saw five goals scored and the Hurricanes up 3-2.
Svechnikov then asserted himself physically in the second period.
After getting slashed numerous times on a previous shift by Kevin Shattenkirk, Svechnikov zeroed in on the Ducks defenseman and crunched him into the boards with a thunderous hit.
Anaheim then spent the next three minutes trying to retaliate, with captain Ryan Getzlaf — playing his final game in Raleigh after announcing he will retire after the season — trying to goad Svechnikov into a fight both before a faceoff and after with a cross-check and slash.
Svechnikov responded by tripping up Getzlaf in the neutral zone later in the shift, and the Ducks center joined a pile of Anaheim players in going after the Hurricanes winger.
“I think the hit itself was clean,” Slavin said. “Then, obviously, emotions after that get going and stuff after that is what it is.
Five players were called for penalties, with Svechnikov getting a tripping call and the other four receiving roughing minors.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Svechnikov has been better about not taking retaliatory penalties when teams target him.
“We don’t want him in the box,” Brind’Amour said. “When he can keep his cool when it was a clean hit and then kind of some cheap shots after, whatever. The fact that he is staying out of the box the best he can, he’s doing a better job.”
The Ducks got first period goals from defenseman Josh Mahura and forward Troy Terry, but Trevor Zegras — who, along with Svechnikov, is the league’s poster boy for creativity — was denied on a lacrosse move by goalie Frederik Andersen (23 saves) and Skjei.
Notes: Slavin was plus-3 on the night and is now plus-30 on the season. Only four players have been plus-30 or better in a season in franchise history. Brett Pesce was plus-35 in 2018-19, while Teuvo Teravainen (2018-19), Dougie Hamilton (2019-20) and Slavin (2019-20) were all plus-30. … Tony DeAngelo was plus-2 and is at plus-29. … The Hurricanes had 40 or more shots on goal for the 16th time this season. … Carolina has gone five games without a power play goal. … Staal’s three previous hat tricks, all with the Penguins, came on April 18, 2012 (a 10-3 win over the Flyers in Game 4 of the conference semifinals), Nov. 11, 2008 (7-6 win over Detroit) and Feb. 10, 2007 (6-5 win over Toronto).