Even coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged the Anaheim Ducks played perhaps their most dynamic hockey of the season early in their 5-3 win over Carolina on Sunday night.
The Hurricanes were suitably impressed, but they didn't stand a chance when the NHL's best were playing their best.
Corey Perry had two goals and an assist in the first period, Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal, and the Ducks jumped to an early 5-0 lead in their second straight victory out of the Olympic break.
Frederik Andersen made 49 saves in his first action since Feb. 3 for the league-leading Ducks, who scored three times in an overwhelming first period filled with sharp passes, relentless skating and outstanding finishes.
"We were as good as we can be," said Boudreau, who won his 100th game in Anaheim.
Francois Beauchemin and Jakob Silfverberg also scored as the Ducks won their NHL-best 43rd game and stayed five points ahead of Chicago and St. Louis in the overall league standings. Anaheim coasted late in its third consecutive win overall, giving Boudreau plenty of fuel for practice even while he complimented his team on its start.
The first 30 minutes were a beauty: Perry got his 31st and 32nd goals during his sixth multigoal game of the season, while Cogliano set a new career high with the 19th goal of his breakout season.
"If we play like that all the time, we'll be tough to beat for anybody," Cogliano said. "I think we played really fast, moving the puck really well."
Andersen was solid while earning his sixth win in his last seven starts, but the Danish goalie could be headed back to the AHL after the game. Viktor Fasth, who has been out since Nov. 18 with muscle inflammation, is due to return to Anaheim as Jonas Hiller's backup.
"If we play like that, we're as good as anyone," Andersen said of the first period. "We've just got to figure out a way to play like that for a whole game."
Alexander Semin, Andrej Sekera and Patrick Dwyer scored in Carolina's fifth straight loss overall and its fourth in six days since the break. Cam Ward stopped 29 shots in just his second start of 2014, and the Hurricanes followed up Saturday's 3-1 loss at Los Angeles with another disappointing effort.
"You take the little positives that you can out of it," Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles said. "We did put a lot of shots at their goalie, and he made some good saves. Ultimately, getting down early against a good team is tough, and it was a tough battle to get back. But we're moving the puck well and we're getting opportunities. That's the biggest thing. We just got snake-bit."
Indeed, Carolina put up 26 shots and scored twice in the third period, but went scoreless on six power plays to drop into an 0-for-21 slump. The Hurricanes conclude their five-game road trip out of the break Tuesday in San Jose.
"We've been pretty sound defensively," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We just haven't been scoring goals. Tonight we made a couple of mistakes early in the first, and they capitalized. They have some good players."
Perry put the Ducks ahead 6:39 in, punching in a loose puck after the Canes' defense came unglued during a shift by Anaheim's dominant top line. Beauchemin scored later in the period on a slap shot that deflected off Jiri Tlusty's stick, and Perry got his second goal 1:48 later with a nasty wrist shot.
Cogliano scored during a horrible Carolina power play early in the second period, beating Ward between the goalie's legs to set his new career high for goals with 20 games still to play.
Shortly after Carolina got a bench minor for too many men on the ice during a power play, Silfverberg dug the puck off the netting and scored his first goal since Jan. 15.
Carolina avoided the shutout late in the second period when Sekera scored in his second straight game. Dwyer added his first goal since Jan. 9 in the third period.
NOTES: Semin returned from a one-game injury absence, but Carolina lost U.S. national team defenseman Justin Faulk to an upper-body injury early in the game. Muller had no update afterward. ... Anaheim F Tim Jackman was scratched a day after signing a contract extension for next season. C Mathieu Perreault also was scratched after getting hurt in the third period Friday against St. Louis. ... Cogliano has eight short-handed goals in his career and three this season.