Before getting into the details, I just have to say that the Canes 5-3 win over the Canadiens last night was one of the best Carolina games I've seen this year. We have seen the Canes come back from a deficit before but what made this win feel so good was the play of Eric Staal. Carolina was constantly getting into penalty trouble and was down their leading goal-scorer for most of the night but that didn't seem to phase them even when they blew a 2-0 lead in the second period. Staal took over the game in the third period and it all started with his shorthanded goal where he made former Hurricane Tomas Kaberle look like a traffic cone. After that, he played like a man possessed and ended the game with six shots on goal, 11 shot attempts and a two goal/three point night to boot.
On a night where head coach Kirk Muller was returning to the city where he once led the Habs to many victories, it was only fitting to see Staal do the same for Carolina. I know Staal's been having an off-year by his standards but I don't think you can deny that he's been Carolina's best player ever since the calendar turned 2012. While he has played better than his goal total and plus/minus indicate, Staal's performance last night was exactly what fans were hoping to see out of him all season and more. I hope he can continue to have more games like that down the stretch.
Moving onto the more technical details, last night's game was actually pretty odd. A little over 30% of the game wasn't played at even strength and we saw plenty of 4-on-4 and 4-on-3 situations, so there were bound to be a lot of strange occurrences. Five of the eight goals scored last night were on special teams situations as the Habs struck twice on the powerplay and the Canes scored twice with the man advantage and had a shorthanded tally in addition to that. Like I said, strange things happen when a good chunk of the game isn't played at five-on-five and the Canes won last night because their special teams were slightly better than Montreal's. Want proof of that? The Canes were outchanced 14-13 at even strength but had 21-18 advantage overall because of how good they were on the powerplay. Sometimes goalies steal you games and sometimes the powerplay will. This time it was the latter.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens 2/13/12 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Montreal's are in white
Special teams really dictated this game if you break it down by period. Carolina did get their only non-empty net even strength goal in the first period but they had a huge advantage in scoring chances because they had two powerplay opportunities and created four scoring chances on them. It would have been nice if they scored on one of them because that could have put the game away early but unfortunately they didn't and Montreal received three powerplay opportunities in the second. Carolina responded with two of their poorest efforts on the penalty kill that I've seen in awhile and Montreal scored twice on the powerplay. Add that to the even strength goal that Tomas Plekanec scored earlier, and the Habs have the lead.
The third period is when things started to turn around as Montreal got another early powerplay opportunity but before they could do anything with it, Eric Staal maneuvered his way through the neutral zone, undressed Tomas Kaberle and scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game. Had Montreal scored on that powerplay, this would have been a different game but Staal's goal completely changed the landscape. Guess what happened five minutes after that? Carolina got another powerplay and Jamie McBain scored off a rebound from an Eric Staal shot to give the Canes the lead and there was no looking back.
The Canes finished the night 2 for 5 on the powerplay but seven scoring chances with a little under six and a half minutes of powerplay time is a very productive night. The goals are going to come eventually when you are creating that many chances and it was good to see the Canes hard work on special teams pay off last night. Penalty killing could have been better but the shorty that Staal scored and their strong effort in the third period helps erase the two PPG's they gave up in the second from my mind.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Anthony Stewart +5
Worst EV Forward: Jeff Skinner -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain & Jaro Spacek +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison -5
Losing Tuomo Ruutu in the first period is a huge blow but Anthony Stewart filled in admirably on the first line. Considering that he's been a sinkhole in terms of possession and scoring chances all year, he wouldn't be my first choice for a promotion but he played well last night on Staal's line. I don't know if this is sustainable but I won't go against good results. Staal was still the team's driving force last night as he led the Canes in shots on goal, shots attempted, scoring chances and was doing anything to create offense and win the game for his team. Whenever you are on ice for 13 total scoring chances, you are doing something night. Also, a shoutout goes to Jiri Tlusty for continuing his point streak. He finished on the negative end in scoring chances but he got his 13th goal of the season and did well on the PK.
To say that Jeff Skinner was a disappointment last night would be an understatement. He created a few good chances on the powerplay but he was invisible at even strength again. Hal Gill basically played his shadow all night. What's even more disappointing is that he was getting a ton of offensive zone starts and still couldn't do much at even strength. Jussi Jokinen was also given a lot of starts in the Habs end but he at least managed to finish even, and that was when he wasn't paired with Skinner. It's only two games so I'm not panicking about this but I hope to see better from Skinner on Friday against San Jose.
Nodl, Sutter & Dwyer got the bulk of defensive assignments and I think they did a respectable job overall even if they were outchanced. However, Dwyer nearly had a huge screw-up near the end of the game when he turned the puck over behind the net. Let's not have that happen again, Pat. As for the foruth line, LaRose and Brent were beasts on the powerplay but didn't do much at even strength and weren't given many minutes either. I am starting to like Brent's work on the PP, though. He's quietly been playing great there. LaRose also had a key play on a late penalty kill that I think shouldn't go overlooked.
I can't be happier for Jaro Spacek right now. There's nothing better than getting booed in the arena for your former team and then scoring a goal to make them all quiet. Spacek played a strong game overall but he was given a territorial advantage compared to other defenseman, as usual so that's worth keeping in mind. Still, he did his job and so did Jamie McBain who played one of his best games of the season.
Jay Harrison and Justin Faulk both had poor outings at even strength and Harrison was especially bad. He ended up being a +1 because he was on ice for an empty net goal but he wasn't on ice for a single Carolina scoring chance and got burned for a PPG by the former Hurricane Erik Cole.
Tim Gleason ended up giving more chances than Bryan Allen, which is strange because those two played together for most of the time at even strength. They were the ones who saw most of the Cole line and they didn't exactly come out on the winning end of that battle.
Head-to-head at five-on-five