Hurricanes top Coyotes behind Staal hat trick

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) — The Carolina Hurricanes were
in search of their first three-game winning streak of the
season. Eric Staal did his best to make it happen.

Staal recorded his fifth career hat trick as the Hurricanes
posted their third straight win Friday, a 5-2 victory over the
Phoenix Coyotes.

Ray Whitney added a pair of goals and defenseman Joni Pitkanen
collected three assists for the Hurricanes, who improved to
3-0-0 on their four-game homestand.

Kevin Porter and captain Shane Doan scored for Phoenix, which
has lost four straight (0-3-1).

“Ultimately, we’re not happy with the fact that we didn’t win,”
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “I thought that we played
very solid hockey tonight. We just don’t score enough when we
need to score to separate ourselves. … We’re just a little
snake-bitten right now.”

After Porter gave the Coyotes the lead nine minutes into the
contest with a power-play goal, Staal drew the Hurricanes even
with 4:44 remaining in the first period, firing the puck past
goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the doorstep after Sergei
Samsonov’s backhander from the high slot was blocked.

The goal ended an eight-game drought for Staal.

“It was a matter of keeping positive, keeping attacking and
getting to those traffic areas,” he said. “I’m a big body, I’ve
got a lot of reach, so I try to focus on getting to those spots,
and some of the guys made some great plays for me to capitalize

“You can’t change your game. I know I can score in this league,
and I know I can contribute offensively, but sometimes the puck
doesn’t bounce your way, it doesn’t fall. You can’t get down on
yourself, you can’t get down on anybody else around you. … It
was nice tonight to contribute offensively for a change.”

Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward was glad to see Staal finally
break through.

“Never once did anybody in this locker room worry about Eric,”
Ward said. “Even when he’s not scoring, he brings something to
the game. I thought he played really well defensively. But
it’s nice to see him get rewarded for the hard work. He has
been frustrated. But I’m sure he’s going to get a lot more
(goals) than that, I guarantee it.

“It was a matter of time before Staaler was going to break out,
and tonight he played a heck of a game, and I’m extremely happy
for him.”

Doan put Phoenix back in front less than two minutes later with
his team-leading 11th goal of the season, but Staal netted two
straight tallies to give Carolina the lead for good.

Exactly eight minutes into the middle session, Staal converted a
backhand pass from the right side of the net by Pitkanen,
beating Bryzgalov with a backhander for his seventh of the
campaign. The 24-year-old completed his hat trick with 46
seconds left in the period, depositing the puck inside the right
goalpost after receiving a backhand feed from below the end line
on the left side by Scott Walker, who notched a pair of assists.

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“When (Staal) breaks out, he breaks out in a big way,” Whitney
said. “He didn’t just score them when they didn’t matter, like
I did. He scored them when they counted. Obviously, he’s the
biggest part of our hockey club, and we’ve been having some
success without him being the Eric Staal that we know. … If we
can continue to play the way we are as a team and have him doing
like he did tonight, obviously we’re going to be a much better

The Coyotes knew Staal was ready for a breakout performance.

“He had one of those games where the puck was bouncing for him,”
Doan said. “He was in front of the net at the right times.
When you’re struggling, going to the net usually works well. He
is such a great player and capable offensively, it was only a
matter of time before he got going. He got going tonight.”

“He is a talented player and he hadn’t scored in a while,” added
Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle, who recorded an assist. “He
came out tonight and I think we gave him a little too much room.
He took advantage of that.”

Staal was pleased to accomplish his feat with Gretzky in

“He’s the best player of all-time, and anytime you get to play
in a game that he loves and we all love, and he’s watching,
coaching against you, it definitely adds a little bit more to
the game,” Staal said. “I wanted to show my stuff and be ready
to play, and ultimately help our team get a win.”

“He’s too good of a player. Eventually, a guy like that is
going to get some goals,” Gretzky said of Staal’s scoring
drought. “A guy his caliber is just too good not to be scoring.
We knew that was going to happen. Unfortunately, it happened

Whitney made it 4-2 with 2:21 remaining in the third, burying a
one-timer from the top of the slot off a feed from captain Rod
Brind’Amour. The veteran then sealed the win with an
empty-netter in the final minute.

Ward made 26 saves for the Hurricanes, turning aside the final
14 shots he faced.

“I thought Cam played well tonight,” Carolina coach Peter
Laviolette said. “He had to make some big saves for us early
on, killing penalties when we had the high-sticking trouble.
Then at the end, he made some big saves. He did a good job for

Making his 11th consecutive start, Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots
for Phoenix.