BY PAT PICKENS
When the Carolina Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin this past offseason, it was a sign they were finally ready to find Eric Staal a skilled winger on his line that wasn’t named Erik Cole.
Through 12 games, Semin’s registered 10 points. But it’s the new man on Carolina’s top line who has spearheaded the Canes’ most recent hot streak.
The Hurricanes are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and have leapfrogged the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Southeast Division. Leading that charge has been left-winger Jiri Tlusty, who has scored five goals in three games, including the game-winner in Carolina’s 4-2 win at New Jersey on Tuesday.
Tlusty started the year on Carolina’s third line, yet since Zach Boychuk was waived and Zac Dalpe was sent back to Charlotte, the 24-year-old forward has found a home playing with Staal and Semin. Tlusty registered four points in Carolina’s 5-4 win Monday on Long Island and has points in five of the Hurricanes’ last six games.
Thanks to both Semin and Tlusty, Staal’s been able to score and make plays. He has a team-high 16 points and a 10-game point streak.
Somehow, the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing exactly what their old general manager wanted them to.
Toronto’s quickly climbing the Eastern Conference ranks, having won four straight — the last two by a combined 11-2 score. Toronto puts that streak on the line Thursday night when it treks to Raleigh, N.C., to play the Hurricanes.
The Maple Leafs claimed wins in all three of their road games last week — including a 6-0 blitzing of Montreal in the road trip’s finale. Toronto returned to the Air Canada Centre Monday and routed Philadelphia 5-2.
Toronto has shown tenacity and grit — just what erstwhile GM Brian Burke wanted. The Leafs have also gotten scoring contributions from all four lines and their defence. Dion Phaneuf has two goals in Toronto’s last two games, and Colton Orr scored his first goal since Oct. 8, 2011 on Monday night.
The Vancouver Canucks have found the best solution to their goaltender controversy: win with both netminders.
The Canucks have claimed six straight victories, and have lost just once in regulation since their opening-night dud against the Anaheim Ducks. Through Vancouver’s recent win streak, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have split time. Luongo stopped 25 shots in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday. But Schneider won the previous two games — victories over Calgary and Minnesota.
Luongo hasn’t lost in regulation yet, posting a 1.45 goals-against average in seven games. Schneider — since being pulled opening night — has surrendered just eight goals in five games.
Though Henrik Sedin’s goal drought is of concern — fourth-liner Aaron Volpatti has more goals than Henrik — if Vancouver keeps pucks out of its net this regularly, it’ll continue to win.
The lasting image from Tuesday night’s showdown in Boston is becoming Jack Edwards.
NESN’s Boston Bruins commentator was so overjoyed by the B’s late rally that he jumped for joy.
After Brad Marchand’s game-tying goal that forced overtime — in the New York Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win over Boston at TD Garden — Edwards not only leapt, but also roared, “They did it! Two goals with the goalie pulled! And the Bruins, showing hearts of lions, have tied it 3-3.”
Edwards defended his broadcasting style Wednesday, telling Boston’s WEEI-Radio “I love my job and I love doing what I do. Every once in a while something incredible happens and I get to jump for joy in my job. If people have a problem with that, bring it. I got no problem answering to that.”
Lost amid Edwards’ antics was Boston’s three-goal outburst in the final 11:16 — two of which came in a 48-second stretch with Tuukka Rask pulled — which allowed the Bruins to gain a point for the 10th time in 11 games.