By the end of the night, they were likely cursing his name.
The undrafted free agent from Union College became the first goaltender making his debut to shut out the Hurricanes since their move to North Carolina, stealing a 2-0 decision for the Sharks with 45 saves and frustrating the home team and the 12,784 fans in attendance from the opening faceoff.
Like Saturday's game against the Bruins, the Canes came out of the gate flying. An early power play went by the wayside, but the Canes had an 8-3 lead in shots halfway through the period and were in the Sharks' zone for long stretches throughout. Halfway through the period, Grosenick stoned Victor Rask twice from point blank range before Rask put his third shot wide of the net.
"He played well, obviously," said Canes coach Bill Peters. "First career start, gets a shutout on the road, good for him. He did his job."
Late in the period, after the Sharks killed a Jason Demers high-sticking penalty, they marched down the ice and Tomas Hertl made it 1-0 on a two-on-one. Hertl's attempted pass was blocked by Andrej Sekera, but a fortunate bounce put the puck right back on Hertl's stick and he shoveled the puck through Anton Khudobin's legs at 18:46 to give the Sharks the lead, which they took to the locker room despite being outshot 16-6 in the period.
It was more of the same in the second period, with Grosenick continuing to stand on his head, denying the Canes' Zach Boychuk halfway through the period with a sliding split-leg save contributing to his 15 saves in the period. The Canes' best offensive chances came while they were killing a Brad Malone hooking penalty, but both times Riley Nash and Jay McClement opted for an extra pass, allowing the Sharks to clear both times.
With five seconds left in the period, Grosenick scrambled to deny Jeff Skinner, keeping the game scoreless into the second intermission.
"It was one of those times where it's laying in the crease and we have a chance to get on the puck first," said Skinner. "Just couldn't finish it. Most goalies in the NHL are going to cover the bottom of the net. In tight, you have to get it upstairs."
The third period saw the Canes fire 14 shots on Grosenick on their way to 45 total on net, not including 22 that were blocked and an additional 22 that missed the net. Grosenick, though, stood tall and didn't give the Canes much daylight to shoot at, and a Joe Thornton empty-net goal with eight seconds left sealed the deal.
Despite the numbers indicating that the Canes did everything but score, a frustrated Peters was in no mood for excuses. "We need to make it harder on the goaltenders, not only tonight but most nights," he said, echoing Saturday's similar loss to Boston. "[We need] somebody in the blue paint, in the goalie's eyes."
And a little bit of luck, too.
- By my crack research, Grosenick is the fifth rookie goaltender to pitch a shutout against the Hurricanes. The others: Eddie Lack in 2013, James Reimer in 2011 (in his ninth career start), Sebastien Caron in 2003 (in his third start), and Roman Cechmanek in 2001.
- Per the Canes, Grosenick became the first player making his debut to record a shutout with more than 40 saves since Mike Fountain stopped 40 shots for Vancouver on Nov. 14, 1996.
- Barclay Goodrow assisted on Hertl's first-period goal. If that name sounds familiar, the ever-erudite Jamie Kellner pointed out on Twitter that Goodrow was a free-agent tryout on the Canes' 2011 Traverse City prospect roster, although he did not receive an invite to the Canes' training camp that year.
- Your humble reporter predicted a 57-save shutout in the game thread before the game (and it's timestamped and all!). I only missed by 12 shots.
- Postgame audio: Anton Khudobin , Jeff Skinner , Bill Peters .
Canes Country Three Stars
(3) Victor Rask: Another strong night for the Canes' rookie Swede. Rask won 7 of his 11 faceoffs and did everything but score in the first period when the Canes were throwing everything they had at Grosenick.
(2) Andrej Sekera: Despite being the defenseman who was nominally to blame for Hertl's goal, Sekera played the pass perfectly and it was only a bad bounce which put the puck back on Hertl's stick for the tap-in. The Canes outshot the Sharks 22-7 when Sekera was on the ice and he was his usual positionally-sound self.
(1) Troy Grosenick: Yeah, when you pitch a 45-save shutout on your debut, you tend to get the first star.
Open Thread Three Snarks: Missing in action tonight, as they have been recently. Up your snark game, people.
Next up: Canes start a five-game road trip in Dallas against the Stars on Tuesday at 8:30 on SportSouth and 99.9 The Fan.