After a damaging five-game losing streak, the Carolina Hurricanes provided their home fans with something to cheer about on Friday.
Behind a stellar effort from netminder Eddie Lack, the Canes shut down the Ottawa Senators 3-0. Perhaps this will lead to a longer stretch of play for Lack, who had only one previous start since his return from a concussion. For a team that needs to go on a serious tear just to get back into any semblance of contention, a hot goaltender is an absolute must.
Fast Start Provides All The Scoring Needed
Something that the Hurricanes have failed to do recently is provide themselves with a fast start, at least in terms of putting goals on the board. Last night was a welcome change of pace. Just over one minute into the contest, Jordan Staal powered his way around the net onto his forehand side and buried a wraparound goal which proved to be all the Canes’ needed on this night.
The Canes’ continued to control play throughout the first period, but could not break through with another goal. After out-shooting the Senators 19-7 in the first, the Canes were finally able to assume complete control of the game in the second period.
Lack and the Offensive Attack
After a premium stop from Lack early in the period against Chris Wideman, the Hurricanes added the insurance goals that would help salt away this game.
Following some extended puck possession in the second period, Canes’ provided a second tally, this time from Elias Lindholm, as the Canes won an offensive zone faceoff and worked the puck around the boards to Staal, whose centering feed was deflected straight to Phil Di Giuseppe who then passed to Lindholm across the crease for a grade-A look.
Minutes later, the Hurricanes pulled away further from the Senators with a goal from Victor Stalberg that was created after a turnover caused by the tremendous effort from Sebastian Aho and Victor Rask.
For Rask, the assist broke a 14-game pointless streak. For the team and Rask, you can only hope that this is a springboard for the final 20-plus games, as his struggles have seemed to mirror the team's offensive woes.
For the remainder of the contest, the Hurricanes continued to pile up shots and control the play. Both teams came away with hefty shot numbers, as the Canes’ piled on 44 total shots at Craig Anderson. The Senators rang up 34 of their own, but Lack met each challenge.
One of the more intriguing aspects of last night’s game, and likely the games going forward the rest of the season, was the new defensive pairings. With the trade of veteran Ron Hainsey to the Penguins, the Hurricanes placed Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk together, and elevated Noah Hanifin onto a pairing with Brett Pesce. These combinations could be together for an extended period of time, not just this season but for years, barring a future trade of one of these defenseman for more offensive punch. Even if the Canes are not to leap back into the playoff race, watching these pairing grow and hopefully develop will be a huge part of the final six weeks of this season.
For the Hurricanes, this win was much needed, but it only serves as a band-aid on a gunshot wound at this time. Continuing this success into Sunday against the Calgary Flames, 3 pm at PNC Arena, is an absolute must. While there are still games in hand, and a somewhat favorable schedule ahead, including a home and home with the Arizona Coyotes as well as another crack at the NHL-worst Colorado Avalanche, the Hurricanes must go on an extended win streak just to get back into contention. Last night was a good start on that long climb up the mountain; now they must begin to replicate that performance.