Their home point streak may have ended, but the Carolina Hurricanes continue to play their best hockey at PNC Arena. Sebastian Aho’s two goals—including the OT winner—and Cam Ward’s 32 saves were the main catalysts for Carolina’s 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.
With the OT victory, Carolina took the season series from Boston (which had the rare format of three scheduled games but 12 total periods, thanks to each requiring overtime) two to one.
With two tallies last night, Sebastian Aho officially hit double digits in the goal column. His OT winner was a phenomenal play set up by his fellow Finn Teuvo Teravainen and finished beautifully by #20.
Aho wins it for the Canes in OT pic.twitter.com/d7NwGB3EIK— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 9, 2017
There’s a lot to like about that play. On the surface, it looks like a simple 2-on-1 from below the top of the circles, with a good shot to finish. But notice the little things—Aho stays high to remain a passing option away from the stick of John-Michael Liles, Teravainen does just enough to sell the shot before passing, and Aho’s shooting technique is superb.
Instead of rifling the shot immediately, he waits and looks up to see where the shooting lane is, which is crucial. Liles was blocking much of the net, and it would have been easy for Aho to simply fire a shot right into him.
But, like the smart player he is, Aho spotted the open corner, and his shot was a prime example of just how skilled he is. Low, fast, and accurate, a shot like that is nothing less than elite.
Aho now has 10 points in his last 12 games, and his already strong rookie campaign continues to heat up.
We hear it a lot when the media and fans talk about the best players and leaders in the NHL: “Oh they’re clutch.” It’s one of those buzz words that most everyone knows the meaning and importance of, but no one can really clearly define. The closest I can come is simply citing examples, like last night, for one.
There were clutch plays from skaters, particularly in the third period. Three goals were traded in the span of two minutes, as each team looked to surge past their opponent late. David Backes and Brad Marchand lived up to their reputation as leaders, while Carolina’s Jay McClement scored another important third period goal.
But man, no one was as clutch as Cam Ward (though Zane McIntyre’s two shorthanded saves on Jordan Staal breakaways were certainly impressive). Sure, he probably wants a couple of those goals back, but Ward was there when he the Canes needed him most. Take a look:
Well this sequence was crazy pic.twitter.com/3DpNyxWzTD— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 8, 2017
That’s a fantastic save (with help from Ty Rattie) on former Hurricane Riley Nash who, if you’re playing “Canes narrative bingo,” probably should have been a goal-scorer tonight.
But when is a goalie needed more than in overtime?
Cam Ward with the game-saver in OT pic.twitter.com/3Kd0B2GImk— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 9, 2017
What a save. Patrice Bergeron probably thought he had a certain goal, but Ward managed to keep a leg out far enough to stop the backhand attempt. Less than a minute later, Aho scored the game-winner.
These are the types of #clutch saves Ward was making when Carolina won the Cup in 2006 and made a run in 2009. If they are to get a glimpse of playoff hockey once more, he will need to continue these types of game-changing plays.
However, he will need some help. Ward has started all but six of Carolina’s games this season (including the last 16), and could likely use a night off to conserve some energy/relieve some stress.
Bonus: He finally bucked this trend—
That moment when I remind you Cam Ward has not won this year when allowing three goals.— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) January 9, 2017
Home is Where the Points Are
So that fantastic point-streak is over, but don’t sleep on the Canes in PNC Arena. Their home record across the past 13 games is an impressive 11-1-1, and their home record on the season sits at 12-4-1. That’s 25 points in 17 games, which has Carolina on pace for 60 points earned at home this season.
The trick for this team will be winning on the road, but creating confidence at home is crucial to building and maintaining success when sitting on the visitors’ bench. Carolina has three remaining games on this particular homestand to earn points and start rolling with some momentum.
There was a bit of good and a bit of bad in that game for the Hurricanes, but the important aspects to take away have to be the imperfect-but-steady play of Ward and the resilience of the team as a whole. They could have been headed to another third-period horror show as Boston scored twice to tie the game and create some confidence, but Ward and the Hurricanes stood strong.
The Canes face a stout test with the Blue Jackets coming to town on Tuesday.