Aho’s goal, assist lead surging Hurricanes past Blues 5-2
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sebastian Aho watched Jake Allen chase the puck into the corner but never broke stride heading for the net.
After the St. Louis goalie stumbled, Aho had an easy goal that helped the Carolina Hurricanes win a matchup between two of the NHL’s hottest teams.
Aho’s short-handed goal and assist led the Hurricanes past the Blues 5-2 on Friday night.
“Tonight was a battle of wills for me,” first-year Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Justin Faulk also had a goal and an assist, Justin Williams and Jordan Staal scored, and Andrei Svechnikov added an empty-netter for Carolina. Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen each had two assists.
Curtis McElhinney stopped 21 shots for the Hurricanes, who have vaulted into playoff contention by earning 41 points since Dec. 30. They have won four straight and improved to 13-3-1 in their last 17 games.
“It’s a nice buzz in the room,” Staal said. “Guys are feeling confident and feeling good, and that’s what you want at this time of year. Everyone understands their role and what they need to bring every night to help us win, or at least make sure that we’re right there with every team.”
Vince Dunn had a goal and an assist, with Oskar Sundqvist deflecting in one of his shots, and Robert Thomas had two assists for the Blues — who have been just as hot, with 40 points since Jan. 1.
St. Louis’ 12 wins in February matched the winningest month in club history, and the Blues entered 13-1-1 in their previous 15.
“They were aggressive. I don’t think we were aggressive enough, especially with the puck playing in the offensive end like we’ve been doing lately,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “Spent a lot of the game on our heels, and a team like that’s going to feed off that. To play teams like that, we’ve got to be better with the puck.”
Allen made 19 saves for the Blues, but his attempt to chase a cleared puck into the corner during a second-period Carolina penalty kill left the net open — and Aho took advantage.
The Hurricanes center snatched the puck behind the net and wrapped it around and in to make it 3-2, giving him four short-handed goals this season — tied for most in the league.
“I saw him going after it, and I was pretty close and he mishandled it,” Aho said. “There was a lucky bounce, but I’ll take those.”
Pietrangelo defended his goalie, calling the play “a small piece of the game.”
“Stuff happens,” he said. “I honestly don’t even know what happened — I didn’t even see it — but you’ve got to pick your teammates up.”
McElhinney shut down the Blues in the third period, making a gem of a body save with about 12 minutes left to stop Vladimir Tarasenko — who had 10 goals and 12 assists in 14 games last month — before Staal’s insurance goal with 9:16 to play.
Shots by Dunn led to the Blues’ first two goals. The first, with 13:01 left in the first, came after Brock McGinn whiffed on a check and Sundqvist redirected Dunn’s slap shot with his stick. Dunn then feathered a shot through traffic to tie it at 2 with 17:47 left in the second.
That goal came after the Aho-centered line produced two goals in a 3:04 span of the first. Williams scored on a one-time blast from behind the circle, and Faulk scored with a wrist shot.
NOTES: Staal, who missed 32 of 34 games with a concussion, scored his first goal since Nov. 2. ... Dunn had his third two-point game of the season and first since Dec. 16 against Calgary. ... Former boxing champion Evander Holyfield visited the Hurricanes’ dressing room before the game, sounded the siren that precedes their entrance to the ice — and then took part in the team’s “Storm Surge” post-victory celebration by pretending to box with LW Jordan Martinook. ... Niederreiter has had multiple points in six of his 18 games with the Hurricanes.
Blues: Host the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
Hurricanes: Visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.