The Carolina Hurricanes hadn’t seen much sustained play of the level that sparked them to a 4-0-1 start since they came back to earth six weeks ago. In fact, they hadn’t even won consecutive games in nearly a month, and with the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs in town, it seemed like an unlikely scenario to spark a winning streak.
But hockey has a way of surprising everyone, and the Canes indeed went into the Thanksgiving holiday with a 5-2 win over the Leafs, their first win over Toronto at home since February 20, 2015.
The Hurricanes came out of the gate absolutely flying. Every skater in w lineup save Jaccob Slavin took at least one shot in the period, led by Andrei Svechnikov with five, on their way to a franchise-record 29 shots in the first period. Svechnikov in particular was everywhere, and while he didn’t officially factor into the opening goal by Trevor van Riemsdyk, it was his hard work behind the net that set up the defenseman to shovel the puck into the net. The Maple Leafs challenged the goal for goalie interference, arguing that Jordan Martinook knocked Frederik Andersen’s blocker off his hand on purpose, but the review upheld the goal and took less time than Mike Babcock did to decide whether to challenge the play.
Twenty-two seconds later, the quick-strike Canes scored again, the second time in as many games that they had scored two goals in less than a minute. And just like Monday, the Canes’ captain lit the lamp. Justin Williams was the beneficiary of a gorgeous Calvin de Haan pass off a faceoff, the defenseman head-faking Nikita Zaitsev out just enough to open up a lane to thread a pass to Williams for a tap-in.
But then Williams made a lackadaisical pass at the blue line that John Tavares picked off, taking advantage of the breakaway to beat his erstwhile teammate Curtis McElhinney and pull the Leafs to within one despite being outshot 29-11 in the period.
The second period, though, was as barren as the first was fruitful for the Hurricanes. Outshot 12-2 in the middle frame, the Canes were back on their feet early and often, but McElhinney stood tall. The Canes’ penalty kill was pressed into service against one of the top power plays in the league, including once with Jordan Staal in the box for a questionable interference penalty, but the unit that had been so shaky for long stretches was flawless.
It took Carolina more than 45 minutes of game time to earn a power play, and they cashed in on their chance. Sebastian Aho’s stick snapped on a shot from the point, but the clearing attempt came right back to Teuvo Teravainen, who set up Micheal Ferland on a one-timer for his 11th of the season to restore the Hurricanes’ two-goal lead.
(Incidentally, Bojangles’ is open on Thursday despite it being Thanksgiving, so your Boberry biscuit redemption will be available for all your breakfast needs tomorrow. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.)
But the Leafs weren’t done yet. Kasperi Kapanen, showing off speed that his father made famous in this arena years ago, took off on a stretch pass with the teams at 4-on-4 and went high to beat McElhinney and pull the Leafs back to within a goal. A minute later, Tyler Ennis whiffed on an open net to tie the game, and the Canes were back on their heels yet again.
But McElhinney stood tall the rest of the way, helped by a perfect pass breakup by Justin Faulk to thwart a Mitch Marner/Tavares two-on-one with four minutes left, and Sebastian Aho iced the game with an empty net goal 1:18 from the final horn to send the Canes into Thanksgiving on a roll. Svechnikov, appropriately, was rewarded for a sterling performance by scoring a second empty-net goal with 37 seconds remaining.
They Said It
It was a good game. Great first period, not a great second, thought we played really well in the third. With the lead, we did it right. Just the way we played it, we didn’t sit back, we played it right. Even in the second period there were times we were doing things right - we hit a crossbar, we had some good looks, but we just didn’t play the same way. We knew they were coming out after their first period, but we had some good kills. I liked the way we competed in the third. We went after it.
[On McElhinney:] He’s earned every start he’s had. Probably makes sense to do it again, but I have to get decompressed before Friday. I thought Rask looked great. He didn’t play much, but the shifts he had were productive. I think we’ll still ease him a little bit, but he looks like he’s right where he needs to be. There’s no real rush to bury him right away. This was a good step in the right direction.
[Svechnikov] is coming on, you can see that. I didn’t like his game the other night - it was probably one of his worst ones - but I loved that he bounced back. You see the confidence starting to come out of him, hanging on to pucks, taking it to the net really hard. Still needs to work on the D zone stuff, but he’s trying. I love it. He wants to learn, and if he wants to learn, he’ll just keep getting better.
Dean’s done a nice job getting the [PK] message across. What’s different? Nothing. The first few games we had some strange bounces going in, and that happens on the penalty kill. I do think we’re getting a lot better at it, but nothing has really changed. The guys may be a little more comfortable with what’s going on, but to be honest with you I just think the bounces have started going our way.
I think we had a great game today. The boys were on fire today, and we scored our first couple of goals. That’s important for us, to score first.
It’s my game, to play behind the net and forecheck. No question, I started off the season and didn’t have that kind of confidence, but right now, the way I’m going, creating those plays increases my confidence.
I think we just stayed together, that’s the important thing. We have got to win. I think when we win, every game we get more confidence, and now we just need to keep going.
Yeah, I saw that [Aho] broke his stick. Good play from Turbo to keep the puck in and I was just getting ready for it, get open and get a shot off. It was a nice play. Special teams was huge tonight. It wasn’t where we wanted it to be early in the season, but I think we have to just keep building off it, keep chipping away and try to get better.
It was huge, coming into tonight we wanted to make a statement that we could play with any team and it felt really good tonight. I think, as a line, we just try to keep things simple and try to be solid at both blue lines. It’s nice to get rewarded. Curtis has been great for us. It all starts from back there, and we just have to keep battling in front of him, keep grinding and build something here.
It feels good. I’m not going to lie, it was a tough way to leave Toronto but I certainly understand how the circumstances were. But it’s a huge win for us considering where they are in the standings.
The way that Toronto’s power play is set up, it’s obviously a lot of point shots coming down and those guys coming off the half wall rolling down. I thought the defensemen and the forwards did a phenomenal job. We got a couple of key blocks in there as well, which were huge.
Another huge start for us - 29 shots in the first period, which is unbelievable. If we’re just funneling pucks to the net, good things are going to happen.
- Justin Williams’ goal in the first period made him only the ninth player in NHL history to score 100 goals and win Stanley Cups with two different teams.
- Rask only took two real shifts in the second period, on his way to 10:32 of ice time, second-lowest on the team (only Phil Di Giuseppe at 9:01 was out there less). Brind’Amour said that he knows Rask wanted to play more, and Rask was feeling confident about his play, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him up closer to 13-14 minutes on Friday.
- There’s something blatantly obvious about how the Hurricanes play in front of goalies not named Scott Darling. The Canes were aggressive defensively, got out of the way and let McElhinney see shots all night, and were very effective on what looked like textbook penalty killing in the second period.
- At this point, Darling has to be the odd man out, doesn’t he? This is McElhinney’s crease until further notice, and there’s no reason Darling or Petr Mrazek should usurp him until his play determines otherwise.
- Andrei Svechnikov finished with eight shots on goal. It’s the most he’s ever had in a game, and reached a plateau that three other players have attained this season, most recently Lucas Wallmark in the shootout loss to the Red Wings on November 10.
- Speaking of Wallmark, I haven’t really been a fan to this point, but it looks like Brind’Amour’s patience with him is paying off. He had three shots of his own tonight, finished +2, and looks to be building a bit of chemistry with Svechnikov. Perhaps there’s a bit of Skinner/Rask/PDG strange-bedfellowing going on between Wallmark, Svechnikov and Martinook?
- Your Dougie Hamilton Consecutive Games With A Shot Counter: 186 and counting.
- The Canes are off tomorrow and will have their usual 10:30 morning skate on Friday before the Panthers come to town.