RALEIGH When Jordan Staal was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in June, he said he was ecstatic about being able to play with his brother, Eric.
After Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jordan Staal agreed he’s happy he no longer has to play against big brother.
It’s just that Eric Staal and his line was at its playmaking best in a 4-1 win for the Hurricanes over the Penguins. Staal had a goal and two assists, Jiri Tlusty scored twice and had an assist and Alexander Semin finished with two assists for the Canes, the Southeast Division leaders.
Cam Ward had an ultra-sharp game in goal and Jeff Skinner scored in his first game since suffering a concussion. But everyone in a Canes sweater contributed and the top line dominated at times, combining for eight points.
“Eric had a great game. That whole line did,” Jordan Staal said. “When they’re going, that’s a tough line to stop.
“I played a lot of games against Eric. I know when he’s on his game he’s tough to stop. You can definitely see a spark in him. He’s driving this bus right now and has been a great leader. It’s fun being on his team right now.”
Jordan Staal had a lot of fun in his six seasons in Pittsburgh and the big center was a big part of the Pens’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2009. That ended with the trade to the Canes, in a deal that also sent center Brandon Sutter to the Penguins.
It was a special, emotional night for both Staal and Sutter. And in an interesting twist, the two went out for the opening faceoff, which Staal controlled.
“Yeah, that was kind of funny,” Staal said. “It was a special moment and it was a good challenge for our team. It was a big win we needed.”
The Hurricanes (10-8-1) had dropped four of the past five after a 3-0 road loss Tuesday against the Washington Capitals.
Ward played well in the loss to the Caps, then backed it up with an even better effort. His 26 stops Thursday night included a dazzling pad save on a Sidney Crosby shot late in the game.
“He’s focused right now,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “When he plays like that he’s up there with the elite goalies. He was competing tonight. I thought he was mentally prepared. He had three solid periods.”
The Canes got a big boost from having four players who had been out with injuries – Skinner and center Tim Brent, along with defensemen Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain – back in the lineup. Brent helped quarterback the power play, Gleason was back to bouncing people around and McBain was steady.
With Gleason and McBain available, the Hurricanes reassigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
Skinner, again at left wing on Jordan Staal’s line, had missed five games with the concussion. He had five of the Canes’ 29 shots.
Chris Kunitz gave the Pens a 1-0 lead in the first with a one-timer off a Crosby pass. But Eric Staal scored with 24.1 seconds left in the period, redirecting a Semin shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
To begin the second, the Canes first had to kill off a penalty – the Pens were 0-for-5 on the power play – and then scored three times in the period.
Tlusty scored his first goal after a Staal wraparound – Staal tipping the puck away from Fleury. Skinner scored off a Patrick Dwyer pass and Tlusty struck with 10 seconds left with a shot from the slot off a nice Semin feed.
“We left our goaltender out to dry,” Pens coach Dan Bylsma said.
Semin’s return to Washington this week wasn’t successful, but Jordan Staal was able to go home a happy man.
“We missed out for Alex on Tuesday and wanted to make sure we got it for ‘Jordie’ here at home,” Eric Staal said. “It was a big game for us.”