Consider Alexander Ovechkin's line:
- 17:47 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 4 shots, EV
- 16:39 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 1 shot, -3
Compared to Eric Staal's line:
- 19:39 TOI, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 7 shots, +2
- 20:11 TOI, 3 goals, 0 assists, 3 points, 4 shots, +2
Erik Cole was absolutely en fuego. He was flying on the ice, and he obviously made the best of his scoring chances, hitting three of the four shots he took, getting him his fourth career hat trick.
Trevor Letowski, who missed 9 games with a concussion, played very well, and netted first goal as a Hurricane. He returned to action on Tuesday against the Devils, and looked good while being used sparingly.
As always, Scott Walker looked great, making key passes, manning up on defensive plays, and doing very well in his increased role on special teams.
At 5:47 of the first, Cole got his first goal of the game. He and Scotty Walker exploded up-ice on a 2-on-2 break. Cole's speed got him half a step on the closest Capitals player, and his tip-in goal was easy, but it couldn't have happened without the brilliance of Scott Walker. Coming down the right side, Walker was flanked by Colesy coming straight down the middle of the ice. The two Caps players were each half a stride behind, and Walker perfectly hit Cole in stride for the easy tip in from about 5 feet out. After the fact, Nic Wallin was given a secondary assist on the play.
During the second period, the Canes had some discipline issues. They took three consecutive penalties midway through the stanza, which gave the Caps a full two minutes of five-on-three, and about two combined minutes of power play on the bookends. Carolina stood tall, with excellent penalty killing, and Cam Ward looked very sharp.
At 18:03, Erik Cole got his second of the night on a pinball shot during a power play sequence. Eric Staal fired a slapshot from the blue line which deflected off Cole's stomach or stick shaft or glove or something on the way in. The subtle re-direction, which occurred from about 6 feet out, ruined Brent Johnson's chance of making the save. Staal with the first assist, and Hedican with the secondary helper on the power play goal.
In the third period, the Canes really took control of the game. Eric Staal scored an even strength marker at 8:46 to make it 3-0. From the right face off circle, he took the sharp angle, beating Johnson on the far side of the net, inside the left post. Scott Walker and Glen Wesley got assists.
At 11:46, Trevor "the Dude" Letowski netted his first goal in a Hurricanes sweater. He and Andrew Ladd had created a two-on-one break off a neutral zone takeaway. Letowski was going through the left circle, with Ladd streaking down the right side. The Dude faked the give-and-go, and got past Johnson on the far side. Johnson had come too far out, and was obviously anticipating the pass. I don't think he saw it until it was too late.
At 14:39, Cole finished off the hat trick with a phenomenal individual effort. The Canes were going on a mini-break, and Cole blew past THREE Caps skaters to take a long "on-side" pass from Ray Whitney. He came in on Johnson and lifted a backhander top shelf. In all honesty, I've watched the replay a bunch of times, and he looked off side, but the linesman on the spot was clearly indicating an on-side play. Rod Brind'Amour got the secondary assist.
It was the fourth hat trick of Cole's career, his first this season, and only the second by a Hurricane this season.
The Canes will stay home as they enjoy a four game homestand. Up next will be the Penguins on Saturday and the highly anticipated Staal v Staal II. The first time we get to see Malkin. Also, the first time Erik Cole and Brooks Orpik see each other.
There were so many stars on Thursday, but I will award the RBH stars of the game as such:
Third Star Cam Ward, CAR Shutout, 20 saves.
Second Star Scott Walker, CAR 2 assists
First Star Erik Cole, CAR 3 goals