Eddie Lack was something of a surprise starter Friday for the Carolina Hurricanes.
To many, the fact the goaltender responded with a 34-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators probably was a much bigger surprise.
Lack, named the game’s first star, has missed much of the season recovering from concussion symptoms and was making his eighth game appearance. His only other victory this season had come Oct. 20 against the Calgary Flames.
But Lack, given a chance to start, made all the stops against the Sens as the Canes ended a five-game winless streak. Jordan Staal had a goal and assist, and Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg each scored for the Canes, who had managed just four goals in their 0-4-1 slide but put 44 shots on net Friday and had 80 total attempts.
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“I thought we were controlling from the start,” Lack said. “We had like 10 or 12 shots the first eight minutes. I just had to be big when I had to. It was a good effort for us.”
Staal scored 1:19 into the game, beating defenseman Dion Phaneuf, an old antagonist, behind the net and then goalie Craig Anderson with a quick wraparound, using his long reach. The Canes (25-24-8) outshot the Sens 19-7 in the period, winning races to pucks and firing from all angles.
“We had some jump in our legs,” Staal said. “You could tell everyone was moving, feeding off each other.”
Lindholm and Stalberg scored in the second period, and after an injury to Brock McGinn that led to some line juggling.
Phil Di Giuseppe, who also assisted on Staal’s goal, found Lindholm open for his sixth of the season after Lindholm replaced McGinn on the line. Stalberg, moved to Victor Rask’s line, jumped into the play to score his ninth.
Rask assisted on Stalberg’s score, ending his frustrating 14-game point-less drought. Rask was knocked down on a late hit by the Sens’ Mark Borowiecki in the first period and the Swedish center responded with a more focused, determined game.
“Dig in, get competitive,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “When somebody’s trying to steal your lunch money, don’t let it happen.”
Peters liked much that he saw Friday and particularly Lindholm’s stat-sheet line: a goal, six shots, five hits and 9-2 on faceoffs.
The Canes were playing their first game without veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey, traded Thursday to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was a jolt to the players and a signal from management that changes were being made, but the Canes adjusted and moved on.
Justin Faulk, often paired with Hainsey this season, played well with Jaccob Slavin. Noah Hanifin, moved to the second pairing with Brett Pesce, moved the puck well and Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck did their part on the back end,
The Canes had two penalties in the third but the penalty killers — with Faulk and Dahlbeck replacing Hainsey — kept the Sens from converting.
Ottawa (32-21-6) was without injured forwards Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, who have combined for 41 goals this season, and Bobby Ryan.
Lack had a pair of shutouts last season for the Canes, his second a 5-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 26, 2016. The shutout Friday was the ninth of his career.
“He was good,” Peters said. “He was big, he was square. Didn’t get tested a whole lot early, but when he did get tested he came up big.”
Cam Ward has gotten most of the workload in net this season and had two close losses to Ottawa this season, both 2-1 games won Anderson. Ward also worked the north crease during Friday’s morning skate at PNC Arena, usually an indication of who will start.
But Lack was the first goalie off ice. Lack was the starter.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to play him a whole bunch due to his injuries and everything else,” Peters said.
Lack did play almost 11 minutes Sunday, relieving Ward in the third period of a 4-0 loss to Toronto. But his start Feb. 7 against Washington — a 5-0 loss — was his first since Nov. 6.
“We don’t want him to sit,” Peters said. “We’ve got to get him going.”
Lack was going Friday. This night, the Canes were going.