Staal’s Hat-Trick Leads Canes Past Sens

RALEIGH – The Carolina Hurricanes returned to their winning ways Wednesday night as they defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-1 at the RBC Center.

Much like last Tuesday’s game against the Oilers, the ‘Canes can credit their success to a fast start and efficient work on the man advantage. Carolina scored four times before the first intermission, twice on the power play.

The ‘Canes ran their power play with tremendous poise and effectiveness. They cycled the puck well, sustained constant pressure, and relentlessly fought for space in the crease. The majority of Carolina’s seven goals were scored right in front of the net, a testament to how hard the ‘Canes were fighting for position down low.

Without a doubt, the best player on the ice was Carolina’s captain. Eric Staal notched his 200th career goal tonight, followed by his 201st and 202nd.

Staal tallied his third goal late in the third period with a wicked wrist shot that found its way past Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire. Hats rained down from the stands of the RBC Center, as the seven year veteran achieved his 11th career hat trick.

“We weren’t happy with our last two games, and we came out ready to play,” Staal said. “I’m hoping to have a lot more than 200, but it’s a great honor for me.”

The Senators took seven penalties in the first period, severely damaging their chances to keep up with the home team.

“It was pretty much the worst-case scenario,” said Senators defenseman Chris Phillips. “We wanted to win this game for so many reasons. A couple early mistakes and lost battles, and before we knew it, we were down, 4-0.”

While the Senators attempted to focus on the game at hand, they had a lot more on their minds than hockey. With the recent passing of Daron Richardson, assistant coach Luke Richardson’s daughter, Ottawa took the ice tonight with heavy hearts.

Instead of traveling to Raleigh on Monday as planned, the Sens delayed their trip down south until this afternoon so they could attend Daron Richardson’s memorial service. Given the difficult circumstances, the Senators deserve a pass on their subpar performance.

With another blowout victory under their belts, the key for the Hurricanes is to begin to develop some form of consistency. After beating Edmonton 7-1 last week, Coach Paul Maurice’s squad lost two games in a row by a combined total of 13 goals.

“It’s a whole lot better than being on a one way slide downhill,” Maurice said about tonight’s win. “That’s what we’re learning and that’s all part of what we’re going to go through at times this year. As long as we keep coming back and we keep getting better and play a better defensive game on the nights where things aren’t easy for us offensively, we will be fine.”

Winning two games by the score of 7-1 in an eight day period is impressive, but neither the Senators nor the Oilers are among the NHL’s elite. If the Hurricanes want to fight for a legitimate playoff spot this season, they need to start beating their tougher opponents.

The ‘Canes get an opportunity to beat a strong team this Friday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

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