There are games that take your breath away with their dazzling offensive skill. There are nights where the final result is in question until the very last second, as the sellout crowd at PNC Arena on Saturday night will tell you.
And then there are nights like Tuesday, when the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets put on an exhibition befitting the preseason two games into the regular season, the Jackets winning 2-1 in overtime in a game that was largely the antithesis of exciting despite coming down to the final shot.
If you’re a fan of defensively-based hockey, this was the game for you. Scott Darling stood tall, stopping all 20 shots he saw in the first two period en route to a 25-save performance. At the other end, Sergei Bobrovsky ran his shutout streak to over 100 minutes, backstopping a solid defensive performance in front of him and making 37 saves of his own.
The most fired up either team got all night, outside of the winning goal, was when Jackets captain Nick Foligno skated in from roughly the vicinity of Mebane and boarded Brett Pesce, somehow escaping a major penalty but sending the Canes’ defenseman to the locker room. Fortunately for the Canes, already down a defenseman to a head injury with Trevor van Riemsdyk out, Pesce returned quickly and didn’t miss a shift.
As with Saturday, the malaise that hovered over the Carolina bench prompted Bill Peters to start shaking up the line combinations in the second period. Not seeing what he wanted to, though, the changes didn’t last long, as it became blatantly obvious that a garbage goal was going to decide things.
Artemi Panarin nearly got that dirty goal on a power play in the third period, after Cam Atkinson’s stick broke attempting a one timer. Panarin tried to lift the puck over a sprawling Darling, but drew iron on the near side. Haydn Fleury came up big killing the penalty, blocking two Jackets shots in quick succession just as the penalty expired.
Sonny Milano, the Jackets’ hottest scorer, finally broke the deadlock midway through the period. Victor Rask lost a faceoff and couldn’t get back into position to cover Milano behind the net, and an Oliver Bjorkstrand point shot was tipped wide of the net but right to Milano. He took advantage of a rare Darling miscue, failing to seal the post for the wraparound, to pot his third in as many games to begin the season.
With six minutes left, Jordan Staal snuck all alone in front of the net, taking advantage of a Columbus turnover, but he had to settle down the bouncing puck and couldn’t pick his spot against Bobrovsky, who robbed him with his shoulder.
It took until 18:35 of the third period to dent the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Jeff Skinner leaped up to force a turnover, gloving the puck down to the ice, and in a single motion he wound up and fired through Bobrovsky’s five hole to knot it up on Carolina’s 30th shot of the night, ending the shutout streak at 118:35. For the second straight game, the fans at PNC would see extra hockey.
When Artemi Panarin hooked Jordan Staal a minute into the extra session, the Canes earned their third power play of the game, and their first at 4-on-3 of the season. Despite a powerful shot by Noah Hanifin and a tip chance by Jeff Skinner, the Canes couldn’t convert in spite of four shots on the power play, their best performance with the extra man all night.
Sebastian Aho had a great chance to win it with a 3-on-1, but on the return pass from Jordan Staal he shot it wide, springing Milano for a breakaway. The youngster’s second of the night was the difference, sending the Canes on the road with no shortage of disappointment.
Rank the Performances
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how you think the team performed tonight. Upvote the players you think played well and downvote the ones who didn’t.
From the Coach
We got the 6-on-5 goal. I thought we caught a break when they hit the post on the power play in the third. There wasn’t a lot 5-on-5 either way, I didn’t think.
It’s a resilient group. A work in progress, obviously. We have to get playing some games and get some rhythm. That will happen when we get out on the trip.
I thought there were times when we dictated, and there were times when they dictated in our zone. I thought it was back and forth. It was pretty even throughout.
Both teams have a pretty good set of D, so it’s hard to get to the net. I didn’t think we were at the net early in the first. We got there more as the game went along. When we did our own job, we were fine. When we were running around doing someone else’s job, we had some holes.
(On Pesce being boarded): [laughs] That’s a two-minute minor. Same as that little slash, same value as getting two centers kicked out. That hit to me was a little bit more than a two-minute minor.
(On the fourth line): They can be even better. They had one shift that they’d want back in the D-zone in the second period where they have to learn to communicate and trust each other. We broke down on that play for no reason. You can’t just give up chances.
In the Room
We settled for outside shots when we could have worked for a better shot. (Bobrovsky) made some saves. We had some guys doing a good job giving us a netfront presence, giving us some traffic. That’s definitely where we want to capitalize.
Jordan did a great job forcing (Hannikainen) so he couldn’t go up the wall. His only option was to turn and go up the middle. Once he does that, you just do your best to get a piece of it. It settled pretty nicely in front of me. The space closed up pretty quickly.
It’s nice to get the first of the season, tie it up and force it to OT. That’s a positive. Once you get the first one, though, you’re looking for the second. I’ll try to get the second next time.
Columbus is a good team. We played fine tonight. It’s a silver lining to take one point. It’s two high-skilled, fast-paced teams. It’s what we expected.
It’s a different type of game: more shots tonight, but less in-zone action, a little less tiring. It’s easy to stay focused. That’s my job as a goalie. It’s fun to play against good teams. I can’t let that squeaker in regulation, but luckily Skins saved my bacon there and we got a goal out of it.
There’s no quit, no give-up. We’ve been down in both games and fought back to tie it up. That’s a great attribute to have in a team. We’re not quitters, and that’s a great thing. I’m really happy to know that. It’s fun to watch these guys work hard and be resilient, just keep going, going, going. I can’t believe how hard these guys skate, forecheck and backcheck. It’s impressive.
- After a middling performance in the faceoff circle on Saturday, the Canes asserted themselves on Tuesday. Only Teuvo Teravainen (1-for-4) was under 50% at the dot tonight, and both Staal and Derek Ryan hit 73%.
- Haydn Fleury was credited with one blocked shot, the one he turned away during the third-period power play, but pressed into service as a penalty killer he was outstanding. He played 2:09 down a man, second only to Jaccob Slavin’s 2:54 killing penalties tonight. He’d might as well go ahead and get an apartment, because he’s going nowhere.
- Aho’s attempt that went way wide in overtime was one of 10 missed shots the Canes misfired on.
- Milano was a bit of an enigma his first season in Columbus, but in year two he’s suddenly caught fire. His four goals are tied for third in the league, behind only Alex Ovechkin (of course) and Mika Zibanejad.
- The Canes have earned points in eight of the past nine home games against Columbus, and - perhaps more importantly - have earned points in their first two games for the first time since 2010, when they swept the Wild in Helsinki.
- The team is off again tomorrow and back at practice at RCI on Thursday. The road trip begins with a flight to Winnipeg on Friday.