With one of their cornerstones playing like this, the Carolina Hurricanes certainly didn’t miss their other one.
Eric Staal stayed on his scoring tear with two goals and an assist, and Justin Peters cruised to his first NHL shutout in the Hurricanes’ 5-0 rout of the reeling Washington Capitals on Monday night.
Justin Faulk and Anthony Stewart scored in an 88-second span and Andreas Nodl added a goal during Carolina’s three-goal first period.
”I felt like we really initiated the game, right from the beginning, from the first shift … and from then on out, we really controlled it and didn’t really give them anything,” Staal said. ”And when we did, Petey was solid. That’s just a good, solid effort by everybody.”
Peters needed to make just 17 saves to win his second straight start while filling in for Cam Ward, an All-Star in 2011 who was out with an undisclosed lower body injury.
”It was a lot of fun to watch,” Peters said. ”Me getting the shutout, I’m just the beneficiary of the effort that these guys put in. I can’t say enough about the effort.”
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said he hopes Ward can return to play against Anaheim on Thursday night – but that doesn’t seem to be quite as imperative now that Peters has been solid.
”It’s nice to know that (from) a confidence level, whomever we slide in there, we now know that we have a chance to win,” Muller said. ”That’s all we ask of our goalies – give us a chance to win every night. (Peters) did his job.”
Jiri Tlusty had two assists, giving him points in a team-best eight straight games. The Hurricanes led 4-0 after 40 minutes and won their third in four games, improving to 11-3-1 in their last 15 at home.
Tomas Vokoun allowed two goals on seven shots before he was pulled at 5:09. Michal Neuvirth made 30 saves but gave up the final three goals.
The Capitals have lost five of six, and in two visits to Carolina since coach Dale Hunter took over for Bruce Boudreau, they have been outscored 8-0.
”Normally, you can try and take some positives out of games,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. ”Tonight, nothing. You can’t wipe it clean because you have to take it in, make sure you know what you’re doing wrong, make sure you know why you lost.”
Meanwhile, Staal is playing his best hockey of the season, and it’s not a coincidence that the Hurricanes are, too.
After spending most of the season in last place, Carolina has pulled even with Buffalo for 14th place in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes are one point behind fourth-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
”Hopefully (the team’s confidence) continues to stay where it’s at, or go higher,” Staal said. ”That’s the biggest thing, the confidence in our game and the confidence in the way that Kirk wants us to play. We’re getting results because of the way we’re playing, and that’s always a good feeling.”
Staal has six goals and five assists during his six-game scoring binge. His first goal came 43 seconds into an elbowing minor to teammate Derek Joslin while the Capitals were trying to move the puck on their power play.
When diving defenseman Dennis Wideman couldn’t get to a pass at the blue line, Staal chased down the puck and beat Neuvirth on a short-handed breakaway to put Carolina up 4-0 with 14:04 left in the second.
His second goal came with 14:09 left, when he scored on a snap shot from the right circle.
But by that point, this one had already been decided after the Hurricanes took a 2-0 lead 5:09 in.
”Weren’t ready to play,” Brouwer said. ”Gave up chances. Gave the puck away. Didn’t get the puck in deep. Just all-around embarrassing.”
Tim Brent uncorked a slap shot on a power play, and the long rebound sailed into the right circle. Faulk was there to slide it under Vokoun’s pads at 3:39, giving the 19-year-old defenseman power-play goals in consecutive home games.
Stewart made it a two-goal game 1:28 later with a goal in transition, taking a feed from Staal and burying a shot. Nodl stretched it to 3-0 with 29.6 seconds left in the period when he one-timed a pass past Neuvirth.
NOTES: Washington C Alex Ovechkin went to the dressing room with about 6 minutes left in the second period because of an equipment issue, Hunter said. Ovechkin was back for the start of the third. … Washington didn’t register its 10th shot until there were about 4 1/2 minutes left in the second. … Capitals C Matt Hendricks and Joslin fought twice in a span of 2:04 of the second. They each received 2-minute roughing penalties after the first fight – then brawled again immediately after they left the penalty box. … Thirteen of the teams’ previous 18 meetings were decided by one goal.