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Recap: Staal, Finns Power Canes Past Caps

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Raleigh

→ In what was likely their most complete, 60-minute effort of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes dispatched the Washington Capitals by a score of 5-1. Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen each had four-point performances (1g, 3a each), and Sebastian Aho scored his first two goals in the National Hockey League in the Hurricanes' divisional win.

"We didn't deviate. We didn't change much. We played more of a complete game," head coach Bill Peters said. "That's a promising sign moving forward."

"It's been kind of coming for our team in general. We've been battling in quite a few games and haven't quite found exactly what we wanted," Staal said. "Tonight was all-around, all throughout the lineup what we need every night."

Video: Aho scores first NHL goal as Canes beat the Caps 5-1

→ The Capitals, who arrived in Raleigh in the wee morning hours after a 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night, jumped out to the 1-0 lead off the stick of Evgeny Kuznetsov. After that, though, it was all Canes, as the men in black scored five unanswered goals and sent the home fans home happy.

"You definitely don't want to give that team any life," said Cam Ward, who made 20 saves. "It's a credit to the guys playing in front of me. We managed the puck really well and controlled the lead very well."

"It's a game of momentum. Once we got that first one … we took off from there. Everyone played great," Staal said. "It was a good effort from everyone."

→ It's been 14 games coming, but Sebastian Aho can now check off his first goal in the National Hockey League - and what a night to do it with his parents in the house to witness the moment. Behind the Capitals net, Aho dished off to Teuvo Teravainen, who then centered to Jordan Staal in the slot. Philipp Grubauer turned away Staal's chance, but Aho was there to score on the rebound from a sharp angle as he was falling to the ice. With the crowd roaring and the horn blaring, Aho got to his feet, knelt down and gave the double first pump in celebration.

Video: WSH@CAR: Aho buries rebound for his first NHL goal

"It was a pretty big goal for me," the understated Aho said after the game. "It's pretty enjoyable playing with those guys. They are really good players."

"I was really happy for him. Obviously it took him a little while, but he's a great player," Staal said. "One of many."

Aho added a nifty empty-net goal in the waning minutes of the game, as he redirected in Teravainen's shot from alongside the gaping cage.

"I think he earned that puck and the goal," Teravainen laughed. "It's good for him."

→ After Aho's first goal evened the score at one, the two Finns hooked up again late in the first period to give the Canes a lead they would then never relent. Staal won a battle along the near boards and laid the puck off to Aho, who then delivered a tape-to-tape pass to Teravainen for the beautifully executed one-time finish.

The Canes' dominance continued in the second period, and again it was Staal involved in the scoring play while on the man advantage. He held the puck in the offensive zone with the tip of his stick before sliding it over to Jaccob Slavin. The Canes worked the puck around the umbrella and then got a shot through to Grubauer. Staal skated straight to the net and deposited the rebound to give the Canes a 3-1 lead.

Five minutes later, Klas Dahlbeck's point shot ricocheted off the end boards and onto the stick of Victor Rask, who banged the puck in past Grubauer to extend his team's lead to three goals.

"We have a lot of skill and speed, so why not? We've just got to shoot the puck more," Teravainen said of the Canes' offense. "When we're shooting and getting rebounds, we're scoring."

→ It's a small sample size, but the Teravainen-Staal-Aho trio combined for 11 points (4g, 7a) tonight. The Hurricanes needed their Finnish duo and their workhorse of a center to get going offensively. Perhaps this trio will have some staying power.

"We changed some things. We're trying to find some solutions. Tonight, that was a very good line, and it should be a good line. There's a lot of hockey sense there. You've got an older, veteran guy down the middle who wins a lot of faceoffs, so you get started with the puck. Teravainen seems like he's fitting in and getting comfortable," Peters explained. "Seabass, now that he's got on the board, I think is going to take a step also."

"Two very smart players," Staal said of his Finnish wingers. "You can tell they work hard, find openings and move the puck well."

Video: Hear from Aho, Teravainen, Ward, and Peters Postgame

→ It's difficult to analyze this game without wondering what kind of impact the news of Bryan Bickell's multiple sclerosis diagnosis had on the team's effort. Bickell was seen mingling in the locker room postgame and looked to be in cheerful spirits amongst his supportive teammates.

"Health is the number one thing. Bicks is a great guy," Teravainen said. "I'm wishing him all the best, and I hope he gets better."

"It's hard to take. Even for myself, close to the same age, both with two girls at home, it could very easily be me. It's very hard to swallow," Staal said. "Bicks is a guy who is strong-willed and is going to keep fighting. Hopefully he can get better and start playing for us again."

"I liked seeing Bicks today at the rink. He's a good man, and he's got energy," Peters said. "The guys love him, and there's lots to love. I know postgame they split the award; he got it and Seabass got it. He's a part of what we're going to do moving forward one way or the other."

→ This is notable only for its oddity and the fact that the Hurricanes survived the sequence. Late in the third period, Elias Lindholm broke his stick. Then Brock McGinn broke his stick. Then Ron Hainsey broke his stick. Three of the five skaters in the defensive zone were playing without sticks, and the Canes were still somehow able to clear the puck out of the zone and live to see another shift.

"Yeah, I've never seen that," Peters joked. "There's a lot of lumber there. That cost somebody a lot of money."

→ The Hurricanes' five-game homestand continues on Tuesday when the San Jose Sharks come to town, and the Canes will be looking to establish their first consecutive victories of the season. 

"We are a good team. We've got a good group of guys in there, and I believe in our group in the locker room. We just have to continue to get better and figure things out as we go. It's taken longer than we've liked," Peters said. "Our bugaboo has been playing 60 minutes. The next bugaboo is getting all 18 and 2 to contribute on a given night, all four lines and all six D to find a way to make a positive contribution. Tonight, I believe we were very close to that."

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