by Kate Shefte
Can the ‘Canes find a way to have Henry Staal come down to Raleigh for every home game?
Eric Staal made his old man proud and broke out of his scoring slump in a big way tonight, scoring
three goals in the first two periods for the ‘Canes’ first hat trick of the season. The hatter, Staal’s fifth of his career, gave him sole possession of first place in franchise hat tricks. Before tonight, he was tied with Erik Cole for the lead.
Staal provided all the offense the ‘Canes needed and Ward took care of the rest, giving the team its first win over western conference foe Phoenix for the first time since 2002.
“Sometimes its hard, but you can’t change your game,” Staal said. “I know I can score in this league and I know I can contribute offensively. I thought for the most part during the last few games I’ve been working hard, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Hurricanes dug themselves into a hole early when Staal drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty and Patrick Eaves received two minutes for the same infraction, giving the Coyotes 48 seconds of 5-on-3. The ‘Canes reorganized and managed to kill it off, but of course, it wouldn’t be a Hurricanes game if the other team didn’t score first. After the Staal penalty expired, the Coyotes scored with 37 seconds remaining in Eaves’ minor.
The Hurricanes could not have scheduled a better time for their annual father’s trip, in which players, coaches, and staff invite their father to travel with the team and attend a road game. Eric Staal has traditionally performed very well with his father, Henry, in the building; he scored his first hat trick in 2005 against Philadelphia during the inaugural fathers’ weekend. Staal finally snapped an eight-game goalless streak after he collected a Sergei Samsonov rebound and tucked it under Ilja Bryzgalov. Staal yelled and threw his arms up in the air, clearly relieved.
“Never once did anyone in this locker room worry about Eric,” Cam Ward said. “Even when he’s not scoring he’s bringing something to the game. It is nice to see him get rewarded for the hard work.”
The Coyotes regained the lead with an unassisted Shane Done goal two minutes later, but Staal was not done. Eight minutes into the second period, Joni Pitkanen centered a pass and Staal wristed it past Bryzgalov while having his stick lifted in front of the net. He buried a Scott Walker rebound later in the second for his first hatter since January.
Sutter continued to impress on the penalty kill. He took the puck down the ice by himself, racing two defenders, and get there first, drawing a hooking call in the process. The 19-year-old Sutter finished the game with 3:29 on the man disadvantage, by far the most of any Hurricanes forward.
Ray Whitney slapped a stunner past Bryzgalov with two and a half minutes remaining to put the game away, then added an empty netter. The goals were his six and seventh on the season, and he leads the team with 17 points.
Staal easily could have had a four-goal night, but Whitney didn’t see him trailing the play and sent the puck into the empty net.
“I didn’t know he was there or I would have let him have four for sure,” Whitney said. “He didn’t just score them when they didn’t matter, like I did.”
Recently-returned defenseman Joni Pitkanen recorded three assists and Scott Walker earned two. The up-and-down Hurricanes, who have followed up a three game losing streak with a three game winning one, will face another western conference rival, the Nashville Predators, on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.