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About Last Night: A Character Win for Carolina

The Canes have now won back-to-back one-goal games and are heading into Washington with newfound confidence.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Deja-vu was in full effect in a few different ways during the Carolina Hurricanes’ win over the New York Islanders last night.

On one hand, it was the second consecutive one-goal win for the Canes in as many nights. On another, the Canes and Isles once again endured a high-scoring affair. And on a third hand (shhhh just go with it), Ron Hainsey scored his second goal in the form of an OT winner in Barclays Center.

Oh, and it was a road win. Remember those?

Hainsey? Hainsey!

The main storyline from last night is one that could hardly have been predicted.

Everyone’s favorite unofficial team dad took matters into his own hands, throwing it back to October of 2015 and scoring just shy of three minutes into the extra frame on the Isles home ice to bring home a victory for Carolina.

And believe it or not, this was the second act of a twice-a-decade show, as the OT winner made it Hainsey’s first multi-goal game since December of 2008. Here’s his first on the evening:

That’s a smile now worn by every Canes fan who saw last night’s game, and while Hainsey’s role as the catalyst for the team’s success may not exactly be sustainable, the trend that it is a symptom of certainly is.

Of Carolina’s five goals, three were potted by defensemen. And five of the team’s twelve points were produced by defensemen, with the top-four having at least one each.

Every team seeks “offense from defense” when they can afford it—both in game scenarios and in financial terms—and the Hurricanes know that they have a few drivers on the back end.

Line du Jour

In the endless saga that is the Bill Peters Line Blend-O-Matic, this season has yielded almost weekly editions of a scorching hot line for the Hurricanes. For the time being, it continues to be the trio of Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, and Sebastian Aho.

While Aho failed to impact the scoresheet for just the first game since the NHL All-Star break, he made his presence felt in other ways. By nature, he drew the attention of the defense, which allowed his linemates to earn two assists each, including one for Staal on the OT winner.

The Islanders did their best to deal with the streaking group, but in their lack of utter dominance, the Canes forwards gave way to another tier of players to carry the team.

For years, one of Carolina’s most glaring issues has been a lack of scoring depth. With the almost weekly change in who “carries the flag” on offense, the Canes are now keeping teams on their toes as to who may step up on a given night.

Winning with Ward

It’s hard to ask a goalie to follow up a gutsy win on the front end of a back-to-back with anything better than a 33-save back end, but that’s just what Cam Ward provided in last night’s win.

Was it perfect? No, surely not. But he was there when called upon, as usual, and gave the team confidence throughout the game. Check out this bailout save on a Jason Chimera breakaway:

Granted, stopping Chimera is a far cry from facing down John Tavares alone, but the point remains: the Canes stole this game from the Islanders, and that doesn’t happen without Ward.

I’ll admit, I was surprised to see Ward start against the Oilers, and after that performance, it became inevitable that he would face the Isles.

It seemed logical to give your backup his first start in two months against a cross-conference opponent in a familiar environment, but at this point of the season it was crucial to put the best foot forward.

That’s not to say Eddie Lack is some kind of liability, in fact I’d argue that he deserves more of the workload. But Ward has taken the reins in net and shows no signs of giving them up.

With a poised and comforting #30 behind them, the Canes can feel good about their chances in any game.

I called this win a “character win” for a few reasons. We saw the team recover from a deficit in a road game, we saw the supporting cast step into the spotlight, and we saw the team win a game that, statistically speaking, they probably should not have. By all accounts, this is a victory to remember and use as fuel.

The Hurricanes now find themselves with some consecutive wins to build off of and significant momentum heading into another “measuring stick” matchup with the Capitals.

But we’ve seen this movie before—Carolina heads into a lopsided matchup with high hopes and ends up falling flat—and the effects tend to linger. The recent five-game skid is still fresh in the memories of those who follow this team, and the players will surely be looking to avoid another disaster in the capital.