Jordan Staal’s been a beast for Hurricanes vs. Predators

Here’s something rare for Jordan Staal as his Hurricanes try to close out the Predators in Game 6 on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN): you don’t need to dig that deep to measure his impact.

Merely glance at the simplest stats and highlights, and you’ll notice that Staal’s been a difference-maker. Maybe even the type of difference-maker he seemingly craved to be when he departed the star-studded Penguins many moons ago.

As you can see in the highlights above, Jordan Staal scored the Game 5 overtime-winner, and gave a celebration worthy of such an accomplishment.

Hard work paying off

It wasn’t just that goal, either. Staal is currently tied for second in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with four goals.

That becomes even more impressive when you realize that all four of Jordan Staal’s goals were scored at even-strength. Only Nathan MacKinnon has matched Staal with four even-strength goals so far this postseason.

This playoff mini-run feels a longtime coming, and it also carries over momentum from a quietly strong regular season. Amusingly, a Rod Brind’Amour quote from February feels like it could apply to what Staal’s accomplished so far for the Hurricanes in the First Round vs. the Predators.

“I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve been saying it forever,” Brind’Amour said in February, via Canes Country. “These plays he’s been making, they’re the same plays he’s been making over and over for years. We’re connecting on them right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’d come back in the game and ‘How did Jordo not have three points last night?’ I’ve been saying this over and over: Right now, he’s getting his due …”

Staal scoring, but also an all-around beast for Hurricanes vs. Predators

Again, the simple stats already paint a pretty picture for Jordan Staal. He’s currently tied with Sebastian Aho for the team lead in points, with five in four games.

Not too surprisingly, Staal continues to thrive according to the “fancy stats” he often piles up.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Hurricanes have generated 20 high-danger chances for at even-strength when Staal’s been on the ice, while the Predators have only enjoyed eight. They’ve generated that higher quality, and also have the volume (42-19 in scoring chances).

It all translates to Jordan Staal being a player Brind’Amour clearly — and justifiably — trusts. Staal (2:50) and Aho (2:49) are the Hurricanes’ most frequent penalty-killing forwards, and the Predators have struggled mightily on the man advantage.

Coaches love their faceoff-winners, and Staal checks that box too, having won 61.5-percent of his draws (67-42).

(You could argue that Jordan Staal’s a lot like Brind’Amour, actually. Both are strong two-way forwards, including in the faceoff circle, who can contribute on offense. Both captained the Hurricanes. Each have been described as workout warriors, too.)

Nice rebound

Contrast Jordan Staal’s work this season and playoffs with some recent dips, and this becomes even more impressive.

The 2019-20 Hurricanes run might have been the most difficult for Staal. In eight playoff games last year, Staal couldn’t generate a single goal or assist. While he’s averaged 21:14 time on ice for the Hurricanes vs. the Predators (almost a playoff career-high), Staal logged a mere 16:26 per night last time around.

Frankly, even a snake-bitten Staal was a nice asset for the Hurricanes. His mixture of smarts, skill, and power allow him to exert his will over opponents.

Only, lately, that’s translated to the sort of offense and outbursts that anyone can see.

While it would be foolish to expect Jordan Staal to maintain this pace (his shooting percentage is at 22.2), this scoring surge provides a nice excuse to appreciate what he always does for the Hurricanes.

HURRICANES – PREDATORS PLAYOFF SERIES SCHEDULE

Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT)
Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Game 5: Hurricanes 3, Predators 2 (OT)
Thursday, May 27:
Hurricanes at Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) (livestream)
*Saturday, May 29:
Predators at Hurricanes TBD

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

    buffalo sabres
    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

    washington capitals
    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

    pittsburgh penguins
    Jeanine Leech/Getty Images
    0 Comments

    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.