RALEIGH — It took nearly half of Friday’s game, but the Hurricanes finally solved Blue Jackets goalie Jean-Francois Berube.
Once they did, the floodgates opened.
Carolina had a season-high 50 shots on net and Frederik Andersen posted a 19-save shutout in the Hurricanes’ 4-0 win in front of 17,112 at PNC Arena.
“We stuck to our game plan and knew what we had to do to be successful,” Nino Niederreiter said after the win, Carolina’s fourth in a row, “and I think you could see it throughout the whole lineup how successful we were.”
Despite the dominant overall performance, the result was in doubt as the game approached its midway point.
That’s when Hurricanes center Jordan Staal got loose on a breakaway. The Carolina captain was stopped by Berube (career-high 46 saves) on the initial chance and then a rebound. He attempted a centering feed that was knocked away, then Brett Pesce passed to Niederreiter in front.
Niederreiter backhanded a pass to Staal on the goal line, and he finally beat a down-and-out Berube with a wide-angle shot for his fifth goal of the season at 9:22 of the second period.
“The fifth time’s a charm, I guess,” Staal said wryly.
It was Staal’s third goal in seven games after going 35 without scoring. The 33-year-old, who in late November said his “stick was turning into a twig the more I’m squeezing it,” has seemingly loosened up.
“I’m just getting warmed up,” he said with another laugh.
It’s helped that coach Rod Brind’Amour reunited Staal with Jesper Fast and Niederreiter, a line that was the Hurricanes’ best early in the season and is again looking dominant.
Niederreiter, playing for a contract this offseason, was the only Hurricanes player to register two points on the night, assisting on Staal’s goal before scoring just 74 seconds into the third period to extend Carolina’s lead to 3-0.
After closing out the second period with a power play goal by Teuvo Teravainen that gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead and 38-9 shot advantage heading into the second intermission, Carolina decided to try shooting from behind Berube to start the third.
The Blue Jackets goalie came out of the net to play the puck behind the net but couldn’t handle it. As he scrambled back to his crease, Niederreiter — who won a race to the loose puck — threw a shot at Berube’s feet and it ricocheted in for his 16th goal of the year.
“You hope you get a bounce like that,” Niederreiter said.
Another “make your own luck” bounce quickly got Carolina its final goal of the night.
Off of an offensive zone faceoff loss, Martin Necas closed quickly on Columbus defenseman Adam Boqvist and deflected his passing attempt.
The puck fluttered right into the slot for Vincent Trocheck, who settled it and shot stick side past Berube just 36 seconds after Niederreiter had scored.
All that was left was to see if Andersen could get his third shutout of the season, and the ever-calm Dane was able to find a way to make stops on a slow night.
Andersen said he stayed focused on playing the full 60 minutes and not being too aggressive when Columbus did have a chance on him.
“I think that’s the balancing act,” he said, “just finding a way to stay in it and stick with the process.”
Notes: The Hurricanes played without defensemen Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith, who are both out with injuries. Ethan Bear stepped into a more prominent role, logging 15:50 — mostly alongside Jaccob Slavin — while quarterbacking the second power play unit, and AHL recall Jalen Chatfield impressed again with an efficient 14:41 of ice time. … Carolina killed off all four Columbus power plays to reach 90% on the season, still first in the NHL. … Jordan Martinook’s six shots on goal was one shy of his career high. He had seven on Nov. 23, 2018, against Florida when he scored his only career hat trick. … Seven Hurricanes had at least three shots on goal, while no Blue Jackets player had more than two.