Losers of two straight, the Carolina Hurricanes desperately needed to turn things around, and they had to do it against one of the league’s toughest customers, the Nashville Predators.
The Canes did it, and they did it with heart, picking up a huge 4-3 shootout win in the Sunday matinee.
The Hurricanes were the better team early on, and they capitalized on a big chance just 3:37 into the opening frame.
Marcus Kruger shot a spring pass down ice and connected with Josh Jooris, who was able to open up Juuse Saros and inch the puck over the goal line to make it 1-0.
The Canes continued to play well through the middle portions of the first period, but the Preds started to establish some offensive consistency as the period wore on, and they found twine with less than five minutes left in the frame.
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville’s breakout star a season ago, took Noah Hanifin for a walk inside the Carolina blue line and went high-glove side on Scott Darling to tie the game at one.
The second period was fairly even as both teams went back and forth.
The Hurricanes had a chance to take the lead on a man advantage, but the Predators killed it off. Moments later, the Preds got a powerplay of their own, and they didn’t squander it.
Mattias Ekholm sent one on net through traffic, the puck tipped off of multiple Hurricanes in front, and found its way past Darling to make it a 2-1 hockey game.
Just a minute later, the Canes responded. This time it was Victor Rask, who had a great game against Toronto after being a healthy scratch for two games, as he hammered home a rebound chance to tie the score yet again.
The was a huge goal from Rask to even things up going into the third period.
The Hurricanes failed to score yet again on an early man advantage in the final regulation frame, but they got another chance shortly thereafter.
Justin Williams provided the net-front presence and lifted a rebound chance up and past the blocked of Saros to give the Canes their second lead of the hockey game.
It wouldn’t be enough, though.
Scott Darling couldn’t handle a seemingly easy glove stop, the rebound rolled out to Kevin Fiala, and his shot was deflected in by Craig Smith with less than nine minutes left in regulation to tie the game yet again, this time at three apiece.
That score would hold through a flurry of chance both ways, thus forcing extra inter-conference hockey at PNC Arena.
The worst case scenario became a reality for Carolina as Jordan Staal went off for tripping, giving the Predators a 4-on-3 powerplay.
That could have, and maybe should have, ended the hockey game, but the heart that the penalty kill showed was incredible and Joakim Nordstrom had the shift of the game as he blocked a shot and cleared the zone late in the Nashville powerplay.
The Canes got a powerplay with 17 seconds to go, but the road team held strong and forced shootout.
Darling was a perfect two-for-two and the Fins came through as Aho unleashed a nasty wrist shot and Teravainen went forehand-backhand to beat Saros.
The Hurricanes cap off their homestand with a huge win against one of the league’s best teams. They’ll now head on the road and play 15 of their next 21 away from PNC Arena, starting on Tuesday in Columbus.
It was a high-end game. I thought it might have been the best game we’ve been involved in all year. They’re a real good team, we’re a real good team when we play properly and I think we did that today. Both teams looked like they were dialed in and it was real competitive. We were physical, which helps and it really helps us defensively. A lot of good things here over the past two games.
We’re getting some greasy, dirty goals and we need more of them. It was good to see the Rask unit score on the powerplay. That’s a three-footer but you have to pay the price to get there. The penalty kill was unbelievable with those guys (Nordstrom and Kruger) blocking shots. That goes a long way and that’s how you win games.
[On Victor Rask] It’s tough when you do that and make those decisions (scratching Rask for two games). He ended up +3 (against Toronto) and he was a +1 with a goal and an assist. We need that out of him and we need that each and every night. That’s part of being a pro. He’s a big part of what we are trying to do.
[On Joakim Nordstrom] I have unbelievable respect for guys who do that (block shots). If you look at that game, coming down the stretch, Kruger and Nordstrom didn’t play a bunch, and the next thing you know, the game is on the line, and they go out and execute like that. I have a lot of respect for guys who play like that.
[On Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen in the shootout] A little Fin-on-Fin there. I said to Seabass (Aho), “Do you own this guy (Jusse Saros)?”, and he said “Yeah, I do.”
[On if he is worried about the play of Justin Faulk] No, I’m not. I thought he played real well. I thought he was physical today. There were some plays left on the table by our group. When we start cleaning things up and start playing a little bit better with our execution and spend more time in the offensive-zone, all of those guys who don’t have the numbers that you’d want will improve and they’ll be there after game 82.
I felt good last game and this game, and I was happy to score tonight. It’s the way I have to play. Our team played really well tonight, and our PK was really good.
The crowd was good tonight. I’m glad they came out.
It’s nice to be back on the winning track again. I thought, throughout the game, we played well, so it’s nice to come out as winners.
This game was way better than the two games prior. I thought we came out with higher pace and played faster throughout the game. We played with more desperation as well.
The third goal is my bad. I wish we could’ve won in regulation, but the boys sucked it up and put in an extra five minutes of hard work for me and scored in the shootout.
[On Nordstrom’s blocked shot in overtime] That’s Nordy through and through. He would do that in the first minute of a game against any team. He’s such a team guy and P.K. (Subban) has a great shot. That’s not an easy guy to stand up and block a shot against.
[On if he felt like getting a win after his poor start vs. NYR was important] Oh yeah, big time. You can’t have games like that, especially on the second goal, you just can’t have those in the NHL. You know those goals are going to happen in your career, so you have to just forget about it and move one.
[On Mika Zibanejad’s center-ice pop-up goal vs. NYR] *through laughter* I just lost it in the lights. Usually, long shots stay more flat, but when they go up in the lights, they’re hard to track. They’re comparable to an outfielder with the sun. I saw it, then lost it, and then it got by me. It was ugly and I hope it never happens again.
That was a big game, really big, especially finishing up the homestand. We have games in hand but keep dropping them, so we need to get boosted back up and that was a good start.
It was intense. The guys were into it and engaged, and we had big plays from big guys. The biggest one was probably Nordstrom blocking those two bombs on the penalty kill. I think we rallied around that. *through laughter* I’ll keep it g-rated here, but he had a set of cajones on him stepping in front of those shots.
We know where the (playoff) line is and we’re below it. Games in hand are only good if you win them. We let a few slip away. We got one tonight and it’s time to punch in and get to work.
[On what stands out about Teuvo Teravainen] I think with his calmness and smoothness, nothing really fazes him. He’s got a great stick and one of the best set of hands I’ve seen and that’s certainly saying something (Williams has played in 1,101 NHL games). If we’re going to get to that next level, he’s going to have to be a huge, huge part of it.
[On Victor Rask] I think he’s played great over the past couple of games. He’s held on to pucks and he’s made guys come to him instead of just getting rid of it. He’s a very, very hard guy to get off the puck when he’s determined to keep it. He came up big for us today.
[On if he was focusing on not interfering with Jusse Saros on his goal] It’s tough to tell nowadays (what is and isn’t goalie interference), but I think I was where I needed to be. I was able to bang one in and I was happy it went in.
- Victor Rask was the game’s first star, scoring a goal and picking up an assist in 16:52 of ice time in his second game back from sitting out two games as a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, it’s his third multi-point game of the season. Six of his seven points this season have come in just three games (10/7 vs. MIN, 10/26 vs. TOR, 11/26 vs. NSH). The Hurricanes are undefeated (5-0-0) in games wherein Rask tallies multiple points, dating back to December 10, 2016.
- Noah Hanifin now has three points in his last two games and eight points in his last 11 games, dating back to November 4 against the Arizona Coyotes. He assisted on Rask’s second-period goal. The 20-year-old also tied with Jaccob Slavin with a team-high four blocked shots and led the team with three takeaways.
- Outside of taking a tripping penalty in overtime, home captain Jordan Staal had a marvelous game. He led all Carolina skaters with 10+ minutes of even strength ice time with a 58.54% corsi share and laid out a game-high eight hits in a team-high 23:00 of ice time. He also won 65% of his faceoffs and had a number of chances around the crease. The TSA line didn’t crack the scoresheet, but they generated offense and had a number of quality opportunities.
- In game 1,101 of his NHL career, Justin Williams scored his fourth goal of the season and had a game-high seven shots on net. Like Hanifin, he had two points against Toronto on Friday and has three points over his last two outings.
- Scott Darling improved to 3-1-0 in his career against the Predators. He made 32 save on 35 shots, which is nearly identical to his stat line the last time he faced the team. He stopped 33 of 36 shots in a 5-3 win over Nashville on October 15, 2016, his first start of his final season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
- The Hurricanes’ special teams units had varying degrees of success. The powerplay scored once on four chances against Nashville’s sixth-ranked penalty kill. The Canes’ penalty kill went one for two as Mattias Ekholm beat Darling on the Preds’ second-period odd-man opportunity. The PK came through in a huge way in overtime, which led to the shootout win.
- The win gives Carolina 24 points in the standings. With two games in hand, they are four points behind the New York Rangers for the second wild-card spot in the East.
- After an even 2-2 split on the homestand, the Canes will go on the road for games in Columbus and New York on Tuesday and Friday. Ten of the team’s 15 games in December and 16 of their next 21 will be on the road. They are 5-4-1 away from PNC Arena this season.
Rank the Performances
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