Found March 16, 2012 on Shutdown Line:

The "first" game at the newly christened PNC Arena was a great one as the Hurricanes and Blues had themselves a good old fashioned goaltender duel between Cam Ward and Brian Elliott. Both netminders were tested plenty and played well enough to give their teams a chance to win but in the end, Carolina came out on top and Ward earned his 200th win with a 40-save shutout performance. He certainly did his part to keep this game tied at zero for the first two periods and the offense eventually came through for him in the third period with two goals.

This was a pretty odd game because despite a quarter of it being played at special teams, nothing too drastic happened as a result. The Blues and Hurricanes both had five powerplays a piece and neither scored on any of them. That doesn't happen too often so both teams should consider themselves lucky to get out of that mess relatively unscathed, and the Hurricanes should be glad that going 0/5 of the powerplay didn't come back to hurt them in the end like it has many times this year.

Solid win for the Canes against one of the best possession teams in the league. They were outshot 40-30 but they lowered the amount of chances they were giving up at even strength, got the goaltending they needed and the offense showed up at the right time. They also got a solid performance from the top line for the first time in about a week. Lots of things to feel good about with this win that we'll dive into after the jump.

Period Totals EV PP 5v3 PP SH 5v3 SH 1 8 7 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 2 6 8 6 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 9 6 7 3 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 Totals 23 22 16 16 7 1 0 0 0 5 0 0

Carolina's chances are in red, St. Louis' are in white

The shot totals from this game are a bit decieving because while St. Louis had 40 shots "on goal" according to the scorer at PNC Arena, they had much fewer scoring chances. There were also a few attempts registered as "shots on goal" that didn't make it on net, but that's another issue for another day. The story with this game is that the Hurricanes managed to clean up their defensive play compared to the last few outings and got a strong effort from their powerplay despite not scoring any goals there.

As I mentioned before, special teams could have decided this game but Carolina's PK stayed strong and killed off two double minors without any damage and the Blues also managed to come out unscathed on the PK despite giving up seven chances. It then came down to which team played better at even strength and while that's a matchup made in hell on paper for the Canes, they controlled the five-on-five play in the third period. Killing off the second half of Eric Staal's double minor to start the period definitely gave the Canes a boost as the Canes would get two powerplays later in the period and it helped them rattle off six consecutive scoring chances. The Blues were tired at this point and it showed with how they continuously gave up breakaway and odd-man rushes, a couple of which almost cost them but Elliott stood his ground.

The Hurricanes finally broke the tie when the Nodl-Jokinen-LaRose line forced a turnover against St. Louis' third line and LaRose scored on a wrap-around. LaRose did a great job of retrieving a pass from Nodl, beating St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the net and catching Elliott off guard as he beat him stick-side. Being down 1-0 late in the game caused the Blues to get more aggressive with their attack strategy. They are normally a very defensively sound team, but they showed a little bit of panicked when they were down a goal. In an effort to create offense, Shattenkirk pinched without having a forward cover the point, which led to Skinner and Ruutu streaking into the offensive zone for an odd-man rush and the end result was a goal despite a valiant effort from Alex Pietrangelo to deny the chance.

Yes, Carolina gave up 40 shots and relied a lot on Ward for the first couple of periods but this team stepped up when they needed to tonight. They took control of the game in the third period and did not sit back on a one goal lead like we've seen them do so many times in the past. It is hard to walk away from this game and be unsatisfied as a Canes fan.

Individual Scoring Chances

# Player EV PP SH 4 Jamie McBain
12:52 6 5 4:05 4 0 0:10 0 0 5 Bryan Allen
15:42 6 7 0:00 0 0 4:11 0 3 6 Tim Gleason
16:14 6 8 0:01 0 0 4:21 0 3 12 Eric Staal
14:08 6 4 4:38 4 0 1:32 0 0 13 Anthony Stewart
5:49 2 4 0:00 0 0 0:00 0 0 14 Andreas Nodl
11:43 6 4 0:24 0 0 1:38 0 0 15 Tuomo Ruutu
12:14 4 4 3:41 3 1 0:10 0 0 16 Brandon Sutter
15:17 3 7 0:17 0 0 3:18 0 3 21 Drayson Bowman
11:23 4 4 0:01 0 0 0:52 0 0 24 Bobby Sanguinetti
10:50 3 4 2:55 3 1 0:00 0 0 27 Derek Joslin
2:46 0 2 0:00 0 0 0:00 0 0 28 Justin Faulk
17:50 5 4 4:51 4 0 2:29 0 2 30 Cam Ward
45:23 16 16 7:47 7 1 6:50 0 5 36 Jussi Jokinen
11:51 4 6 3:21 3 1 2:31 0 2 37 Tim Brent
7:11 3 2 3:47 4 0 0:18 0 1 39 Patrick Dwyer
15:12 5 7 0:01 0 0 3:11 0 4 44 Jay Harrison
17:18 6 4 3:42 3 1 2:29 0 2 53 Jeff Skinner
13:56 5 3 3:45 4 0 0:10 0 0 59 Chad LaRose
11:29 4 1 3:26 3 1 0:00 0 0

Best EV Forward: Chad LaRose +3

Worst EV Forward: Brandon Sutter -4

Best EV Defenseman: Jay Harrison +2

Worst EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason -2

New forward lines for the Hurricanes were revealed this morning as Jeff Skinner was bumped up to the first unit with Eric Staal & Tuomo Ruutu. You can see that this method worked because this was the best performance the first line had in about a week. Skinner was a force tonight in the offensive zone. It seemed like whenever he was on the ice, he was either creating chances or doing anything to help spark Carolina's offense. Whether that was by getting shots on goal, setting up other players or drawing penalties, Skinner was effective in all facets of the game tonight and has a goal to show for it. Staal and Ruutu were also much better in this game than they were in the last few, especially when it came to the powerplay. Ruutu could have easily had his 20th goal of the season on a powerplay chance in the third period but Elliott said no. Staal seemed a little more pass-happy than usual but I thought he played well overall.

I am interested to see how this Nodl-Jokinen-LaRose line works out because when they were together, they played pretty well. I don't know what has gotten into Nodl lately but he's been way more active offensively than ever before and I kind of like it. My biggest complaint about Nodl was his skillset and lack of offensive upside but he's been proving me wrong lately. The goals aren't coming but he's at least doing his best to create chances by going to the net. He had three golden chances tonight. Also, Nodl is finally being used on the PK! Huzzah!

Speaking of going to the net, Mr. LaRose scored his goal tonight by doing just that. He had a very typical game for his standards. Provided energy to the second line, scored a goal, drove play in the right direction, played physical and took an awful penalty. That's pretty much what I expect from LaRose on a nightly basis and I thought he was solid, but it is getting hard to defend some of the penalties he takes.

Brandon Sutter's line had an interesting matchup as they were used against David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Jamie Langenbrunner instead of St. Louis' first line like I thought. My guess is that Ken Hitchcock wanted to use Backes against the Staal line since he's typically used against opponent's top lines and he was able to get that matchup most of the time. Either way, this line did not have a good night defensively.

Timmy Brent was actually good at even strength tonight and almost had his 11th goal of the season on a breakaway chance that went off the goal-post. I also noticed that Muller isn't using him on the point of the powerplay anymore, but I guess there is no need to have a forward there with Bobby Sanguinetti in the lineup. He did a good job in both areas, though.

On that note, Sanguinetti was decent tonight when he played. Muller did his best to shelter him from tough competition and he still ended up with a negative scoring chance rating, which isn't promising. He did look a lot more comfortable out there, though and made a couple of solid plays in the offensive zone. It was him forcing a turnover which led to the play that set up LaRose's goal, after all.

I criticized Muller for using Jamie McBain on the shutdown pair last game becuase I felt that McBain could not handle those minutes. McBain was torched against the Rangers but performed extremely well tonight and that was with only one offensive zone start, so now I look like a fool. Hey, I'm glad to be wrong as long as the team benefits from it. Gleason also had only one start in the offensive zone but started nine in his own end, which led the team by a long-shot. As a result, he gave up a lot of scoring chances. He was rock solid on the PK, though.

On the opposite end, Justin Faulk was protected a bit at even strength with only one defensive zone start and playing most of his minutes against the Blues' second and third lines. Both him and Jay Harrison ended up positive ratings. Both of them seemed to be everywhere tonight as they logged a ton of minutes at even strength, on the powerplay and penalty kill. They performed pretty well in all three phases, too with Faulk having two great chances with the man advantage.

Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five

  • Andy McDonald was knocked out of the game in the 2nd period after taking an ugly looking hit from Tuomo Ruutu along the boards. Perron took his place on the second line.

  • McBain & Gleason's defense of St. Louis' first line was not bad at all and I was actually very impressed with how McBain played in the limited minutes he saw at even strength.

  • Sutter, Dwyer & Bowman's main assignment was Berglund's line and as you can see, they had some problems defending them.

  • Staal, Ruutu & Skinner didn't dominate anyone but Staal won his main defense matchup agaisnt Barrett Jackman and Roman Polak. The Backes line seemed to mitigate them when they were on the ice together, though.

  • Giving up a scoring chance to a line that consists of Ryan Reaves, Scott Nichol & BJ Crombeen is a sign that you aren't very good. I'm looking right at you, Joslin & Stewart.

  • The Blues' third line had a very good game and I thought they were the team's most effective unit. Unfortunately, these three were also on ice for what was the game-winning goal but I still thought they were great tonight. Chris Porter, especially.

  • David Perron was burned by the Nodl-Jokinen-LaRose line and had a very rough night overall.

St. Louis Blues Chances

# Player EV PP SH 1 Brian Elliott
44:14 16 16 6:50 5 0 7:47 1 7 5 Barrett Jackman
14:10 5 7 0:05 0 0 4:40 1 6 10 Andy McDonald
8:05 3 2 2:13 3 0 0:27 0 0 12 Scott Nichol
7:17 1 1 0:00 0 0 1:55 1 0 15 Jamie Langenbrunner
12:07 6 4 2:05 1 0 1:43 0 3 17 Vladimor Sobotka
12:01 6 4 0:34 0 0 3:27 0 5 21 Patrik Berglund
13:52 5 4 3:34 5 0 1:43 1 0 22 Kevin Shattenkirk
15:56 4 4 4:32 4 0 2:22 0 1 23 Ian Cole
13:15 4 3 0:00 0 0 0:00 0 0 25 Chris Stewart
12:56 5 5 2:19 3 0 0:00 0 0 26 BJ Crombeen
7:24 2 2 0:00 0 0 0:26 0 0 27 Alex Pietrangelo
16:50 7 6 3:17 0 0 4:54 1 6 28 Carlo Coliacovo
15:09 7 5 3:07 5 0 0:33 0 0 32 Chris Porter
11:03 6 3 0:09 0 0 1:23 0 2 42 David Backes
13:19 4 5 3:41 2 0 2:23 0 2 46 Roman Polak
15:00 5 7 0:14 0 0 3:03 0 1 57 David Perron
15:28 4 9 4:31 2 0 0:09 0 0 74 TJ Oshie
14:01 4 6 3:49 0 0 2:00 0 2 75 Ryan Reaves
7:01 2 1 0:00 0 0 0:00 0 0

Best EV Forward: Chris Porter +3

Worst EV Forward: David Perron -5

Best EV Defenseman: Carlo Coliacovo +2

Worst EV Defenseman: Roman Polak & Barrett Jackman -2

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