While most people expected Alex Ovechkin to showcase his skills on Monday night, it was Eric Staal who stole the show.
The Carolina Hurricanes' star center scored twice and added three assists as his team snapped a three-game skid with an impressive 6-3 victory against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
''It feels good,'' said Staal, who was a plus-4. ''We haven't had a lot of those this year. Hopefully we can follow this up and continue to play well.''
Ovechkin, Mike Green and Eric Fehr scored for the Capitals, who just hours before the game traded captain Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Jason Chimera. Washington recorded only four shots on goal in the first period.
''You look at their standings, and you look at how hard they played, (and) I find it hard to believe they are where they are,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Hurricanes, who entered the game with just 25 points. ''We know them as a divisional opponent that plays hard against us all the time, and tonight was no exception.''
Carolina held a 3-0 lead after just 20 minutes, as Tuomo Ruutu, Staal, and Jussi Jokinen all beat Jose Theodore in a span of 6:46. Ruutu broke a scoreless tie, putting in the rebound of Staal's shot at 7:44 of the first period. Staal made it 2-0 at 10:14 and Jokinen got the third goal at 14:30.
''The only way you're going to play against this team is if you're going to skate,'' Maurice said. ''If you give them an extra foot-and-a-half of ice to play on, they're going to beat you and make you look bad doing it.''
Green got the Caps within two on a power-play goal just 1:14 into the second, but Carolina restored its three-goal lead when Brandon Sutter notched his 10th goal of the season at 3:32. Fehr was able to cut the deficit in half again for Washington when he beat Cam Ward (28 saves) with 7:04 left in the second.
Ovechkin then cut Carolina's lead to 4-3 when he tallied his team-leading 26th goal of the season 82 seconds into the third period, as he capitalized on Tim Gleason's roughing penalty. But Sergei Samsonov beat Theodore midway through the period and Staal sealed the deal with an empty-net tally at 18:28.
''It's a hard situation for us because we lost our captain and a great guy,'' Ovechkin said of the afternoon trade. ''They're both good players, but it's a business and you can do nothing about it.''