Hurricanes top Coyotes behind Staal hat trick

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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- The Carolina Hurricanes were

in search of their first three-game winning streak of the

season. Eric Staal did his best to make it happen.

Staal recorded his fifth career hat trick as the Hurricanes

posted their third straight win Friday, a 5-2 victory over the

Phoenix Coyotes.

Ray Whitney added a pair of goals and defenseman Joni Pitkanen

collected three assists for the Hurricanes, who improved to

3-0-0 on their four-game homestand.

Kevin Porter and captain Shane Doan scored for Phoenix, which

has lost four straight (0-3-1).

"Ultimately, we're not happy with the fact that we didn't win,"

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "I thought that we played

very solid hockey tonight. We just don't score enough when we

need to score to separate ourselves. ... We're just a little

snake-bitten right now."

After Porter gave the Coyotes the lead nine minutes into the

contest with a power-play goal, Staal drew the Hurricanes even

with 4:44 remaining in the first period, firing the puck past

goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the doorstep after Sergei

Samsonov's backhander from the high slot was blocked.

The goal ended an eight-game drought for Staal.

"It was a matter of keeping positive, keeping attacking and

getting to those traffic areas," he said. "I'm a big body, I've

got a lot of reach, so I try to focus on getting to those spots,

and some of the guys made some great plays for me to capitalize

on.

"You can't change your game. I know I can score in this league,

and I know I can contribute offensively, but sometimes the puck

doesn't bounce your way, it doesn't fall. You can't get down on

yourself, you can't get down on anybody else around you. ... It

was nice tonight to contribute offensively for a change."

Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward was glad to see Staal finally

break through.

"Never once did anybody in this locker room worry about Eric,"

Ward said. "Even when he's not scoring, he brings something to

the game. I thought he played really well defensively. But

it's nice to see him get rewarded for the hard work. He has

been frustrated. But I'm sure he's going to get a lot more

(goals) than that, I guarantee it.

"It was a matter of time before Staaler was going to break out,

and tonight he played a heck of a game, and I'm extremely happy

for him."

Doan put Phoenix back in front less than two minutes later with

his team-leading 11th goal of the season, but Staal netted two

straight tallies to give Carolina the lead for good.

Exactly eight minutes into the middle session, Staal converted a

backhand pass from the right side of the net by Pitkanen,

beating Bryzgalov with a backhander for his seventh of the

campaign. The 24-year-old completed his hat trick with 46

seconds left in the period, depositing the puck inside the right

goalpost after receiving a backhand feed from below the end line

on the left side by Scott Walker, who notched a pair of assists.

"When (Staal) breaks out, he breaks out in a big way," Whitney

said. "He didn't just score them when they didn't matter, like

I did. He scored them when they counted. Obviously, he's the

biggest part of our hockey club, and we've been having some

success without him being the Eric Staal that we know. ... If we

can continue to play the way we are as a team and have him doing

like he did tonight, obviously we're going to be a much better

team."

The Coyotes knew Staal was ready for a breakout performance.

"He had one of those games where the puck was bouncing for him,"

Doan said. "He was in front of the net at the right times.

When you're struggling, going to the net usually works well. He

is such a great player and capable offensively, it was only a

matter of time before he got going. He got going tonight."

"He is a talented player and he hadn't scored in a while," added

Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle, who recorded an assist. "He

came out tonight and I think we gave him a little too much room.

He took advantage of that."

Staal was pleased to accomplish his feat with Gretzky in

attendance.

"He's the best player of all-time, and anytime you get to play

in a game that he loves and we all love, and he's watching,

coaching against you, it definitely adds a little bit more to

the game," Staal said. "I wanted to show my stuff and be ready

to play, and ultimately help our team get a win."

"He's too good of a player. Eventually, a guy like that is

going to get some goals," Gretzky said of Staal's scoring

drought. "A guy his caliber is just too good not to be scoring.

We knew that was going to happen. Unfortunately, it happened

tonight."

Whitney made it 4-2 with 2:21 remaining in the third, burying a

one-timer from the top of the slot off a feed from captain Rod

Brind'Amour. The veteran then sealed the win with an

empty-netter in the final minute.

Ward made 26 saves for the Hurricanes, turning aside the final

14 shots he faced.

"I thought Cam played well tonight," Carolina coach Peter

Laviolette said. "He had to make some big saves for us early

on, killing penalties when we had the high-sticking trouble.

Then at the end, he made some big saves. He did a good job for

us."

Making his 11th consecutive start, Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots

for Phoenix.

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