The Carolina Hurricanes have put their slow start behind them thanks in part to improved special teams.
The Hurricanes will go for their fourth straight win when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
Carolina (3-2-1) opened with three consecutive losses, allowing the opposition to go 5 for 16 on the power play. The Hurricanes failed to score with the man advantage in two of those games but have done so in each of their last three - all victories - while killing 14 of their opponents’ 15 opportunities.
They had two short-handed goals in a 4-3 win at Buffalo last Friday, then scored two on the power play in a penalty-filled 4-1 win over Boston on Tuesday. It was their second victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions in a week.
“We battled extremely hard,” said Cam Ward(notes), who made 34 saves. “We didn’t back down from anything and I think you’re sensing the chemistry in the locker room - that the guys really want to do it for one another and it showed out there.”
“We obviously frustrated them in their play,” Staal said. “We were in their face and aggressive, and they were trying to get something going.”
Ward has gotten things going during the three-game win streak, with a .942 save percentage after posting an .864 mark in losing his first two starts. He’s 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average facing the Blues.
Carolina continues its four-game road trip, which ends Saturday night in Winnipeg, against a Blues team trying to fix its struggling special teams.
St. Louis (2-4-0) has given up at least one power-play goal in every game and is 0 for 19 with the man advantage in its last five.
“You never anticipate that,” coach Davis Payne said. “I mean, you anticipate that you’re going to have stretches that you have to deal with, and you have to bear down and execute and get the job done on the PK, but this is a little more than we anticipated at this point.”
The Blues have lost two straight while giving up nine goals. They fell 5-0 to Los Angeles on Tuesday in the finale of a frustrating four-game road trip.
Already without Andy McDonald(notes) (concussion), the offense has been hurt by the struggles of players like David Backes(notes), who has two points through six games after finishing last season with a career-high 62.
After winning 27 games and posting a 2.48 goals-against average in 57 starts in 2010-11, Halak is 1-4-0 with a 3.47 GAA this season.
Backup Brian Elliot has given up three goals on 42 shots in two appearances.
Friday might not be a good opportunity for Elliot to make his second start, however. In two starts against the Hurricanes last season, he gave up four goals in each and was pulled in one.
Carolina won 2-1 at St. Louis in a shootout Dec. 11 in the teams’ only meeting last season.