The Carolina Hurricanes opened up after the All-Star Break against the Ottawa Senators in the first game of an eight-game homestand and a span of 11 home games in the next 14 games. Ottawa came into the game 15 points out of the payoffs seeking their first win at PNC Arena since 2015, but despite an early lead they extended that streak with a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes in front of a packed lower bowl thanks to the team’s offer for all ticketholders to claim a seat downstairs.
The Canes came out with a fully healthy roster for the first time this season with Sebastian Aho playing his first game since his head and knee injury against the Calgary Flames. The Canes came out skating really well, beating the Senators to loose pucks and winning board battles all over the ice.
Jeff Skinner looked noticeably quicker than usual and the defense will be seeing him in their nightmares. Skinner single-handedly created scoring chances and led the team with six shots. In the first, he had a break short-side backhand attempt that bounced off the crossbar. In the second he took a great point-blank slapshot that was fought off by Craig Anderson.
However, where the Canes really struggled was getting the puck out of the zone. There were multiple times in the first and second periods where they whiffed on exits, which led to scoring chances for Ottawa through sustained pressure. In the first period, one such failed attempt almost led to a sure goal but Jaccob Slavin went to the ice and blocked a cross-ice pass with his hand.
The teams exchanged failed power play attempts before the Senators were broke through on the score sheet with just under two minutes left in the second period. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s snapshot nicked off of Jaccob Slavin’s skate and beat goaltender Cam Ward who was unable to track the change of direction.
Aho looked good in the game, but it was clear that he needed to settle in. He was a little tentative in the first missing some passes and second-guessing some of his moves. He looked more comfortable in the second but not 100%.
But in the third period, he looked back to his usual self. Aho tied the game three minutes into the final stanza, with the reunification of the TSA line. His slapshot ricocheted off of the defense before finding the back of the net. He created chances all night by circling the zone and starting cycles, opening up areas of weakness in the Sens’ defense. The Canes were able to get many more high danger scoring chances in the third than any other period mainly due to Aho’s strong play.
The Canes were able to break the tie with their second power-play chance when Victor Raskbeat a stunned Craig Anderson short side. The goal was set up by a great breakout pass from Noah Hanifin to Justin Williams who then slid it across the ice to Rask. Anderson was not expecting the shot and didn’t move upon the release. The Canes are now 19 for 83 since December 1 on the power play, a 22.9% success rate that is seventh-best in the league in that time.
The Canes are back on the ice tomorrow for practice ahead of Thursday’s visit from the Montreal Canadiens.
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