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About Last Night: Wins Are For Closers

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The Hurricanes have won three tight games in a row. That hasn’t always come so easy.

Jamie Kellner

The Carolina Hurricanes won a 2-1 game where things often seemed to favor the Columbus Blue Jackets except on the scoreboard. That makes the second one-goal win in a row for the boys in red, not counting the shootout win in Vegas (technically one goal, but not the same IMO).

Is this a big deal? Well, have you watched the Hurricanes this season?

Entering the Buffalo game on Friday, Carolina was 2-6-3 in game decided by one goal, not counting shootouts. Four points in 11 games.

So if you were like me last night, when that Columbus goal went in on the redirect by Jack Johnson, you’re heart probably sunk a little bit.

NOT AGAIN! PLEASE NO!

But the Hurricanes earned the lead back with Noah Hanifin, who allowed Johnson the space and lane for the goal, earning his good reputation back with a rebound off the pad of Sergei Bobrovsky.

And they held it...AND THEY HELD IT!

The obvious first star of the game, and the #1 closer last night, was an unusual source, not normally a name associated with “clutch” by Caniacs: Scott Darling.

But after backing up Cam Ward for two games, Darling came out and gave maybe his best performance of the year, allowing one goal (an almost-sure goal, at that) on 36 shots, including saves like this one:

Now were the shots good chances? Nearly always, no.

But...you do remember Darling was the guy who did this, right?

...and this:

Both coming just a few weeks ago, in the same game. So yeah, you can say blind faith is not high in Darling just yet.

Here’s a random observation: Canes who were supposed to perform, didn’t, were benched, then got good, listed below.

Victor Rask: check.

Scott Darling: check.

Who’s next? (cough Bill Peters plz cough you can bench a coach cough trust me)

Another thing that showed in this tight game was the passion. After Hanifin allowed that goal, he was inconsolable on the bench, then stepped up his game and got the game-winner.

After the final horn sounded, look at Darling dancing out of the net and Elias Lindholm skating in to give him a hug:

Sure, we all wish we could be like the Penguins or Capitals of the last few years, and just nod heads and shake hands because we’ve won so frequently that it’s kind of usual. But we’re not them (thank God, I can’t stand that gaudy yellow or that stupid Caps logo) and the emotion the Hurricanes have shown the last few wins is inspiring Caniacs to celebrate as well.

Something we all direly needed, am I right?

Maybe the Buffalo game wasn’t the greatest example of “closing,” but it certainly was compared to whatever that San Jose game last week was. Last night’s game against CBJ certainly was “closing,” and doing against a current playoff team in the strong Metropolitan Division.

I imagine that for the “many more” 3+ win streaks that Darling referenced to come to life, the Canes will to have to close like they have the past couple games. Doing it back-to-back may send a statement to the locker room that deep down, this ability is actually in their DNA.

Let’s always hope for blowout wins, but also hope to get to a point where tight games aren’t as scary as they have been in the past...well, almost-decade now. Because the latter is more likely than the former, if we’re honest with ourselves.