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Recap: Aho's Power-Play Goal Lifts Canes in Third

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Raleigh

Sebastian Aho's power-play tally in the third period was the deciding factor in a closely contested match, as the Carolina Hurricanes topped the Edmonton Oilers 2-1.

"We did a lot of good things especially in the third period to play with a solid lead, and we found a way to finish it off," said Jordan Staal, who gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in the first period.

"We saved our best period for the third period," Cam Ward said. "These games are so tight that you can imagine it will be much of the same moving forward."

Video: Aho, Ward power Hurricanes to 2-1 victory over Oilers

→ Before this most recent stretch that has seen the Hurricanes convert five power plays in as many games, the team's power play had been mired in mediocrity for a couple of weeks. Given the opportunity tonight early in the third period to break a 1-1 tie, the team delivered one of its best performances on the man advantage all season.

"We've got players with great skill," Staal said. "You can tell the puck's been quick."

Scoring chances were aplenty - Teuvo Teravainen missed just high on a tic-tac-toe play from Aho and Elias Lindholm, and Justin Faulk put a wrister from the point off the post - and then Faulk helped sustain the pressure with a gorgeous zone keep at the blue line, smacking the puck down out of mid-air.

Shortly after, Faulk dished over to Aho, parked just above the right faceoff dot, and he ripped a blistering shot that beat a screened Cam Talbot.

"The puck never left the zone, and we had some good looks," Peters said. "Credit to those guys for taking advantage of the opportunity."

Aho has now tallied four goals and five points in his last two games, and with 16 goals on the season, he's closing in on Jeff Skinner's team lead of 18.

"He's continued to grow and get better. That's what you want to see in a young player," Staal said. "He's found his groove, and you can tell he's gaining confidence by the game."

The Hurricanes were 1-for-1 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. Win specialty teams, win the game.

→ Staal opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period, scoring a goal quite similar to the one he scored on the power play in Washington just over a week ago. Jaccob Slavin delayed with the puck before dropping it down to Lindholm on the goal line. Lindholm then fed Staal in the slot with a tape-to-tape pass for his jersey number's equal in goals this season.

"There's a small window there, and he put it right where it needs to be," Peters said in praising Lindholm's game. "I'm really happy with his game, and I'm pleased with where our team game is at."

Video: Hear from Slavin, Ward, Staal, and Peters Postgame

→ When the Hurricanes met the Oilers in Edmonton in October, they held sophomore phenom Connor McDavid off the scoresheet. They weren't so fortunate tonight. After breaking his stick and quickly retrieving a new one, McDavid snuck behind the Canes' defense on a broken line change, turned his back and used his strength to protect the puck from a pursuing Lindholm and backhanded the puck past Cam Ward.

"His speed kind of intimidates you," Ward said. "It puts players on their heels."

That would be Ward's only blemish of the night, though, as the team defense worked to neutralize the Oilers' attack and Ward made 24 saves on 25 shots in his 43rd start of the season, which is third-most in the league.

"We had a great third, playing in their end and doing things we wanted to do to keep them at bay," Staal said.

"I thought everyone was good. I thought it was a good hockey game all around," Peters said.

In a back-to-back situation with travel, who takes to the net on Saturday? Eddie Lack is ready and healthy following his lengthy two stints on injured reserve. Peters said this week he'd use Lack soon, but didn't specify when.

"Sooner is this week," he added coyly after the game.

"I'm always ready to go. You know that. That's just the life of a goaltender," Ward said. "We'll see what coach has in mind, but either way I think the team is confident with whoever plays tomorrow."

→ The Hurricanes won't be back at PNC Arena until after their five-day bye week in the middle of the month, when they begin a five-game homestand. Before the rest period, the team will play three consecutive road games, beginning with the tail end of this 11th back-to-back set in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

"We've kind of turned our season into small segments, and it's important to focus one game at a time," Ward said. "We need to capitalize tomorrow and start getting some wins on the road."

"We're getting better as a team, for sure. We're in a very important stretch, as everybody knows," Peters said. "Now that we're a good hockey team, we're a complete team, guys are comfortable in their roles and we know what we're all about, I think our road record is going to be very good from now to the end of the year."

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