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Staal's two power-play goals in Carolina's 3-2 victory over Montreal on Tuesday night gave him five goals, two assists and a plus-5 rating in the six games since Paul Maurice took over for Laviolette on Dec. 3.
|Eric Staal's scoring binge has coincided with the hiring of Paul Maurice as coach.|
Although he told the Raleigh News and Observer the timing of his hot streak is a coincidence, he said he has felt less tension on the ice since Maurice took over.
"It's unfortunate sometimes that the coach is the one that takes the fall," Staal told the newspaper Monday. "I think when stuff like that happens it kind of makes everyone else take a breath.
"I think as a group, as a team, we've done that. Now it's about working hard and climbing the standings and getting back to first in our division."
While going 2-1-3 in those past six games, the Hurricanes can use a little more hard work to stay in the playoff race. But at least Staal and linemates Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu have been doing their part. The trio have combined for nine goals, nine assists and a plus-15 the past six games.
"I feel good out there," Staal told The News and Observer about the three games previous to Tuesday. "I'm just kind of letting loose and playing the game. I'm not thinking. I'm just moving my feet first and letting everything else fall into place.
"For me, it's about making sure my legs are churning and knowing that when they are, things just start to happen. Then it's just about reacting. That's what I've tried to focus on -- making sure I'm working my tail off in practice and working my tail off in games."
After signing a seven-year contract extension worth nearly $58 million this past summer, Staal finally is playing like he deserves it. And the window might be closing fast on fantasy owners' opportunities to steal him in a trade.
Staal's plus-12 overall has been a bright spot, especially considering he was a minus player in each of his first four NHL seasons.
"He's flying all over the place," Samsonov told the paper. "He's doing everything. Besides the scoring, he works hard at both ends of the ice and gets it done defensively, as well. He's so quick on the puck, and once he gets there he has that long reach where he can take the puck away from a lot of defensemen. He's playing great."
Alexei Kovalev snapped a 19-game goal-less drought with a short-handed tally. Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including the winner, in the Capitals' 5-4 overtime victory over the Islanders. He has 11 goals in his past 12 games and 19 on the season. For the 0.5 percent of you who own Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt, sorry about his minus-5 against the Caps. Mike Richards had a goal and two assists in the Flyers' 5-2 victory over the Avalanche to stretch his points streak to eight games. He has seven goals and eight assists during the streak. Teammate Simon Gagne also had a goal and an assist, giving him 16 goals and 21 assists on the season. Joffrey Lupul's 10th goal of the season gave the Flyers six players in double digits in goals, the most in the NHL. Maple Leafs forward Jeremy Williams scored a goal for the third consecutive game since being called up from the minors. He also had a goal in the shootout, which the Leafs won. Colby Armstrong scored two goals in the Thrashers' 4-1 victory over Ottawa. Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 of 29 shots and improved to 3-5. The Senators have scored just four goals in their past four games. Loui Eriksson had both of Dallas' goals in the Stars' 2-1 overtime victory over the Coyotes. He now has 14 on the season, matching his total output last season. Jarome Iginla, who had two goals and two assists in Calgary's 6-3 victory over St. Louis, had another goalie-freezing, no-look, cross-ice pass to set up a Michael Cammalleri goal -- it's becoming a routine. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who is 13-3-1 in his career against the Blues, hasn't lost to St. Louis since Jan. 30, 2006. St. Louis forward Brad Boyes scored his 16th goal of the season and has six goals and seven assists in his past 10 games. Troy Brouwer had two goals and an assist in Chicago's 9-2 trouncing of Edmonton. Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists, giving him three goals and eight assists in his past eight games. Only three Blackhawks skaters -- Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Matt Walker -- failed to get a point. Jonas Hiller was in net for the Ducks' 3-1 loss to the Rangers as Jean-Sebastien Giguere sat out after his father passed away Monday. Giguere is expected to miss Friday's game at Edmonton.