Winners of three consecutive games, the Carolina Hurricanes have been playing a brand of hockey that hasn’t really been seen in Raleigh in a long time.
They went into Minnesota on Saturday night looking to keep the fun going, and while it was far from a perfect game, they were able to come out on the right side of a 5-4 final score.
They needed more than 60 minutes, though.
The Hurricanes certainly looked like the better team in the opening frame, especially at even strength where they really dominated.
Just over eight minutes into the game, it was the road team who broke the ice. Jordan Staal drove to the net, and his knee pushed a loose rebound in the crease through the legs of Devan Dubnyk. It was Staal’s fourth goal of the year, and Trevor van Riemsdyk got his first point of the season with the primary assist.
From there, the Canes started to run into some issues.
Less than one minute after the Hurricanes took the lead, they had an opportunity to really take control. J.T. Brown went to the box for interfering with Valentin Zykov, and Marcus Foligno got whistles for slashing just 42 seconds later.
With 1:18 of a 5-on-3 and then an additional 42 seconds of a 5-on-4, the Hurricanes failed to score. They put seven shots on net, but only one or two of those shots were from high-danger areas. There were a lot of point shots that were tracked easily by Dubnyk due to a lack of net-front presence.
Then, tempers started to flair a bit. Eric Staal got away with a pretty clear interference call, when he ran through Brett Pesce away from the puck. Then, just moments later, Pesce took a bad penalty, seemingly out of frustration.
Safe to assume that Pesce was a little upset about this: pretty obvious interference on Eric Staal that wasn't called. pic.twitter.com/1cb2MiGOHU— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 13, 2018
It took just 39 seconds for the Wild to do what the Hurricanes failed to do up to that point - score on the powerplay. Charlie Coyle tapped in his first goal of the year after Curtis McElhinney made a blocker save that directed the rebound right into the middle of the blue paint.
Just a couple of shifts later, Coyle shot the puck over the glass and took a delay of game penalty, which led to the Hurricanes’ third unsuccessful powerplay of the first period.
Through 20 minutes, Carolina had a 20-5 edge in shots on goal, but the game was tied at one goal apiece.
The second period was a lot of the same. The Hurricanes dominated at even strength, and they frustrated the Wild, who lost their discipline a bit more as the game went on.
Seven penalties were called in the second - four for Carolina and three for Minnesota, including matching roughing calls for J.T. Brown and Andrei Svechnikov early in the period.
Again, the Hurricanes failed to capitalize on their three powerplays in the second period, which is growing to be a rather notable concern, but they did take the lead thanks to what was nothing short of a phenomenal individual play by Sebastian Aho during a 4-on-4 segment.
Aho skated around Eric Staal at the Minnesota blue line, circled back in, and put a perfect pass on Brett Pesce’s stick. Pesce deflected it home for his second goal of the year to give the road team a 2-1 lead.
At the end of the second period, the Hurricanes were outshooting the Wild 36-9. Minnesota had nine shots on goal and seven penalties through 40 minutes of play.
Carolina had the tail end of a Minnesota powerplay to kill off to enter the third period, which they did successfully. Just seconds later, though, Jared Spurgeon tied the game.
Spurgeon found himself uncovered in front of McElhinney, and his backhand shot found its way into the Canes net to make it a 2-2 game. Four minutes later, the Wild took their first lead of the night - another powerplay goal. Jason Zucker found a soft spot in the slot, got the feed from Granlund, and ripped a one-timer past McElhinney.
The period eventually shifted back to Carolina, though. The Canes finally converted on the powerplay in the form of a Sebastian Aho rocket on a rebound from Justin Faulk’s point shot to tie the game at three.
With just over four minutes left in regulation, Minnesota scored what appeared to be the back-breaking goal in this game. The Canes couldn’t get the puck after a defnesive zone faceoff, and Granlund walked in and fired it top shlef over McElhinney to make it a 4-3 game. It was a goal that McElhinney would want back, and the referee made an accidental screen on Dougie Hamilton, which blocked him from picking up the puck before Granlund.
Them’s the breaks, though, and the Hurricanes had to cook up a late rally to send the game to overtime.
After another failed powerplay, Rod Brind’Amour pulled McElhinney in hopes of tying the game with an extra skater on the ice.
And then this happened:
Justin Williams found a way to score his first goal as the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. His goal pushed the game to overtime, where the Canes lost on opening night against the Islanders.
Saturday was different, though. On Carolina’s 57th shot of the hockey game, Sebastian Aho sent his team to Winnipeg on a high note.
It was Aho’s second goal and fourth point of the night. He had a memorable showing against the Wild.
A special game from a special player.
With the win, the Carolina Hurricanes improved to 4-0-1 on the season. They’ve now won four consecutive games. They will, however, have a tough test on Sunday night in a hostile environment up in Winnipeg against a dangerous Jets club.
There is a lot to like from the Canes’ gutsy win against the Wild. They dominated even strength play throughout the game, they never conceded the game, and they seemingly made things happen when they really needed to.
On the flip side, their powerplay needs to get better. They went one for nine on the man advantage. Minnesota went two for five. That’s an important story from this game. Additionally, it was a rough night for Curtis McElhinney. He had a stellar game in Columbus, a passable game against the Canucks, and now a real let down in Minnesota.
It’ll be Petr Mrazek in net tomorrow against the Jets, though. And the Hurricanes will, undoubtedly, take their hard-earned two points from the Wild and be on their merry way.
They’ll look to keep the good times rolling tomorrow north of the border.