Eric Staal

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The Playoff Buzzer: Another shutout for Mrazek; Burns dominates for Sharks

  • Jordan Staal scores another huge goal for the Carolina Hurricanes as they continue their playoff run.
  • Kevin Labanc scored a beauty of a goal for the Sharks.
  • Brent Burns dominated and made a little bit of history for the Sharks.

Carolina Hurricanes 1, New York Islanders 0 [OT] (CAR leads series 1-0)

If you like defense and goaltending, this might be the series for you. It took a little more than 64 minutes for someone to find the back of the net in this one, but Carolina’s Jordan Staal finally did it for the Hurricanes in their 1-0 win over the Islanders. Petr Mrazek was also outstanding in net by turning aside all 31 shots he faced for the Hurricanes as they continue their magical run.

San Jose Sharks 5, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SJS leads series 1-0)

Even without Joe Pavelski in their lineup the Sharks still have enough depth to beat just about any team on any given night, and they showed that in their 5-2 Game 1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The Sharks’ third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen, and Kevin Labanc combined to score three consecutive goals in the win, while defender Brent Burns had a huge four-point night. While the offense was a huge part of the win, the Sharks’ penalty kill also came through in the second period as they successfully killed off a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Brenden Dillon to help swing the momentum in their favor. They responded by scoring three consecutive goals over the next eight minutes to take the lead.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks. It was the Brent Burns show for the Sharks on Friday night as he tallied four points in their 5-2 win over the Avalanche. Along with the offense, he also made a couple of great defensive plays, including an outstanding play to break up a 2-on-1 odd-man rush involving Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie in the third period. It is games like this that made him a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time in the past four years. He is just the seventh defender since 2010 to record at least four points in a postseason game.

2. Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. Here is a quick look at how Staal’s week has been for the Hurricanes. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals to send the game to a decisive Game 7. In that Game 7 he scored the game-tying goal in the third period to help send the game to overtime where they would eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions. Then on Friday night he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 series lead. He has always been an outstanding defensive center and strong two-way player, and he is having an incredible postseason for the Hurricanes.

3. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes. While Staal provided the only offense for the night, Mrazek did his part to keep the Islanders off the board with a 31-save shutout. It is already Mrazek’s second shutout of the postseason and the fifth shutout of his postseason career. That is an impressive number when you remember he has only appeared in 19 NHL postseason games and only has nine career postseason wins.

Highlights Of The Night

This was probably Mrazek’s best save of the night as he shut down New York’s Josh Bailey in the first period with this awesome glove save.

San Jose’s Kevin Labanc got the better of Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen on this play with an incredible move to set up the go-ahead goal for the Sharks.

Robin Lehner was not the problem for the New York Islanders on Friday as he matched Mrazek save-for-save during regulation. This second period stop on Gregg McKegg was his best of the night.

 

Factoids Of The Night

  • Jordan Staal’s overtime goal for the Hurricanes came 13 years to the day of his older brother, Eric Staal, scoring an overtime playoff game-winner during the 2006 playoffs. That was a pretty good postseason for the Hurricanes as they went on to win the Stanley Cup. [NHL PR]
  • This was the seventh consecutive day of playoff hockey that at least one game went to overtime. The longest such streak is nine consecutive days during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. [NHL PR]
  • Burns set a new Sharks franchise record for most career postseason points by a defender. [NHL PR]
  • Big night for Joe Thornton as he became just the 24th player, and only third active player, to record at least 100 postseason assists. [NHL PR]
  • Mrazek became the third goalie in Hurricanes history to record multiple shutouts in a single postseason. [NHL PR]

Saturday’s Games

Game 2: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 3 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)
Game 2: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hurricanes control Game 3, shut out Capitals 5-0

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The last time the Carolina Hurricanes won a home Stanley Cup playoff game, Warren Foegele was 13 years old and Dougie Hamilton was 15. A decade later, Foegele and Hamilton each scored twice during the Hurricanes’ 5-0 Game 3 win over the Washington Capitals.

The sold out PNC Arena crowd had been waiting 10 years for Monday night, and the Hurricanes gave their fans plenty to remember. Foegele opened the party 9:43 into the first period with his first career playoff goal.

The last Hurricanes player to score a playoff goal on home ice? Eric Staal in Game 4 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Final.

The good times were marred minutes later when Andrei Svechnikov was knocked out of the game after taking a punch during a scrap with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Carolina also lost forward Micheal Ferland with an upper-body injury following the opening 20 minutes.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But those two losses up front didn’t slow Carolina’s approach as they peppered Braden Holtby all night. The Hurricanes outshot the Capitals 45-18, and at one point Washington went 23:06 without a shot on Petr Mrazek. The second period shot totals were 18-1 in the Hurricanes’ favor.

Mrazek, by the way, now has five career playoff wins. Four have come via shutout.

As the Hurricanes kept Holtby busy, they would score four more times to put the game out of reach. Foegele added another early in the second period and Hamilton scored both of the Hurricanes’ power play goals to secure the victory.

It was an inspired effort by Carolina in front of their home fans, and one that will give them a boost in confidence as they look to even the series later this week.

Washington still leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hurricanes have knack for making most of rare playoff runs

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In that magical run to the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup victory, the Washington Capitals finally broke a cycle of fantastic regular seasons followed by heartbreaking finishes. Finally, the Capitals made good, in part because they consistently gave themselves a chance by winning division titles, if not the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Carolina Hurricanes introduce some really fun contrasts to the Capitals, including being the analytics darling while Washington often transcends those numbers.

But an even more tantalizing narrative is a “David vs. Goliath”-type underdog story, as the Hurricanes haven’t tasted the postseason since 2008-09.

(For some perspective: the Capitals have only missed the playoffs once [in 2013-14] since 2007-08.)

Give the Hurricanes this much, though: they have an uncanny knack for making the most of their rare playoff runs. It’s something to think about as the series begins with Game 1 in Washington on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET (USA; live stream).

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

This is just Carolina’s sixth playoff appearance since moving from Hartford and becoming the Hurricanes in 1997-98, yet they conjured some magic in their last three appearances. Consider those three stretches, from oldest to newest:

  • In 2001-02, the Hurricanes made it to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, falling 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings. With 91 points during the regular season, Carolina beat out the Capitals for the Southeast Division title, but the team nonetheless felt decidedly scrappy. Current coach Rod Brind’Amour was an alternate captain.
  • After that run, the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs for two straight seasons, before the 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The Hurricanes then won the Stanley Cup during the zany 2005-06 season. Many remember this as a weak team for a champion, but some forget that they finished the season with 112 points, the second-highest total in the East that season. Eric Staal topped all scorers with a breakthrough 100-point season, Brind’Amour was the captain and two-way beast, and Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe.
  • The Hurricanes then missed the playoffs for two straight seasons before returning to the postseason in 2008-09, their last appearance until the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carolina won two playoff rounds before being swept by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Brind’Amour was … still captain.

So, in the Hurricanes’ last three playoff runs, they’ve won nine playoff series, and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions both times they failed to win it all. That’s pretty good bang for your buck, huh?

It’s also worth noting that Brind’Amour has been involved in those three runs, which … *arches eyebrow*

None of this is to say that the Hurricanes will go deep during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they’re considerable, justifiable underdogs against the defending champions in Round 1, just to begin. Still, it’s remarkable how this franchise has made the most of these appearances in the past.

Hurricanes – Capitals Game 1 from Capital One Arena will be Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. You can stream it here.

For more on these two teams, check out the series preview. Get a rundown of Thursday’s full slate of Game 1 action with The Wraparound.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals host Hurricanes on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

With six games to play, Washington leads the Metro by just one point over the Islanders. Washington is vying for its fourth consecutive division title. They are coming off a big 3-1 win at home against Philadelphia on Sunday, and now face a tough three-game stretch against two of the league’s top teams.

Since winning seven straight games from Feb. 24 – March 10, the Caps are just 3-3-1 in their last seven, including losses to Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa twice. Sunday’s win snapped a two-game skid which saw Washington lose twice at home – to Tampa in OT on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday.

Carolina has been one of the best teams in the NHL over the last two months. CAR is 18-6-1 since the All-Star Break and could potentially end the NHL’s longest active playoff drought this spring.

Sebastian Aho – in his third NHL season – is having a career-year with 30 goals, 50 assists and 80 points. The former 2015 second round pick leads Carolina in goals and points and has truly emerged as the team’s superstar this season (has most points. by Hurricanes player since Eric Staal’s 82 in 2007-08).

Carolina has won four of their last five games, including two straight. They last played on Sunday, defeating the Canadiens 2-1 in OT. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov (who turns 19 today) scored the OT winner – his 20th goal of the season. The 2018 No. 2 overall pick has five goals in the last seven games.

If the playoffs started today, Washington and Carolina would meet in the first round of the playoffs.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Tuesday, March 26, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Hurricanes-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

HURRICANES
Nino Niederreiter – Sebastian Aho – Justin Williams
Andrei Svechnikov – Jordan StaalTeuvo Teravainen
Micheal FerlandLucas WallmarkJordan Martinook
Brock McGinnGreg McKeggSaku Maenalanen

Jaccob SlavinDougie Hamilton
Brett PesceJustin Faulk
Calvin de HaanTrevor van Riemsdyk

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTom Wilson
Carl HagelinEvgeny KuznetsovT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyNic DowdTravis Boyd

Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Christian DjoosJohn Carlson
Brooks OrpikNick Jensen

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Forslund (play-by-play) and AJ Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

Hurricanes in position to end NHL’s longest active playoff drought

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The last time the Carolina Hurricanes were in the playoffs, the Black Eyed Peas were on top of the charts and The Hangover was just about to hit theaters. This year, the “bunch of jerks” from Raleigh have a legitimate chance to end the NHL’s longest active playoff drought.

Postseason hockey was last seen in Carolina in May of 2009, when the Canes were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Not one member of that playoff roster remains on the team, except for captain Rod Brind’Amour, who is now behind the bench. Justin Williams, the Canes’ current captain, was traded to Los Angeles in March of 2009 before the playoffs began.

Fast forward 10 years to this March, where with 11 games to play, the Canes are in the first wild card spot in the East. They’re also just three points behind the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division, with two games in hand. That positioning has to do with a recent surge in which Carolina has gone 11-3-1 in their past 15 games, have converted on 21.9 percent of their power plays during that stretch and also killed off 34 of 37 penalties.

Outside of Williams, who has three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume, Carolina is led by a slew of underrated up-and-comers. Sebastian Aho is in the middle of a career season and is on track to become just the second player in Carolina history (not including the Hartford Whalers) to record 90 points. Eric Staal did so with 100 points in 2005-06. The team’s leaders in time on ice this season are Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce. Goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney have combined for just 176 wins over the past 11 seasons. And yet, the Hurricanes have the seventh best defense and sixth best penalty kill in the NHL.

Beyond their collective lack of experience, a glance at the roster would probably place goaltending as Carolina’s biggest concern entering the final few weeks of the season, though their netminders have been sensational of late. McElhinney is 11-3-1 dating back to New Year’s Eve with a 2.66 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and two shutouts. While he struggled in his latest start against Columbus, Mrazek has been terrific over the past month, going 6-1-0 over his last seven starts with a 1.71 goals against average, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts of his own. Still, performing that well in the playoffs is something new entirely. McElhinney has never made a postseason start. Mrazek took the Detroit Red Wings to Game 7 of the opening round against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015, but has never won a playoff series. His latest postseason appearance came last year with the Philadelphia Flyers, when he allowed two goals on 14 shots in relief during a game that the Penguins won 7-0.

If they can hang on to a playoff spot and snap their nine-season drought, the Canes will most certainly be underdogs in the first round, no matter their opponent. But there is no reason not to enjoy what Carolina has already accomplished this season in their push toward the playoffs.

When he signed with the Hurricanes before the 2017-18 season, Williams made it clear he wanted the team’s culture to change.

“You have to go through trying years and failure before you get to your goal,” Williams said. “We’re done losing. It’s time to climb the ladder and get relevant.”

It took a year longer than Williams might have liked, but between making a playoff push and enjoying their viral post-game celebrations, the Hurricanes are relevant once more.