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McKegg makes instant impact, Hurricanes survive comeback bid in win over Blue Jackets

Fourth line comes to play as the Canes extend their winning streak to three games.

Jamie Kellner

Friday night’s tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be a big test for the Carolina Hurricanes, who were riding high after two wins over the lowly Philadelphia Flyers.

While the Blue Jackets were in Raleigh waiting for their opponent, the Canes had a late flight last night and had to make a quick turnaround. They had to start on time.

And they did.

The Hurricanes were buzzing from the jump. Warren Foegele jumped in, undressed Norris-candidate defenseman Seth Jones, and was hauled down in the process. That gave the Canes’ power play its first chance of the night, and it looked like they were going to waste it.

The first 100 seconds of the man advantage was rather putrid, but a late push from the top unit salvaged things when, right at the expiration of the man advantage, Micheal Ferland slammed a pass from Sebastian Aho right by the pad of Sergei Bobrovsky to give the home team a 1-0 lead.

Less than 90 seconds later, the other piece of the trade with the Flames made it 2-0.

In his own end, Saku Maenalanen dug the puck out of the corner, dealt the puck to Greg McKegg who drove the puck right through the neutral zone and his drop pass to Dougie Hamilton was wired by the glove of Bobrovsky.

It was Hamilton’s second goal in as many games and served as another reminder that, when he gets going, he’s going to be a big problem for opponents. Perhaps this is the start of that transformation.

Lucas Wallmark got whistled for interference in the latter half of the first period, but the Hurricanes, largely, avoided any problems as their red-hot penalty kill remained red-hot.

At the conclusion of the opening frame, the score stood at 2-0 in favor of Carolina. It was a perfect first period for the Hurricanes, who jumped all over their rested opponent and jumped out to an important early lead.

As expected, the Blue Jackets came out with more urgency in the middle frame. They won more puck battles, played with more speed, and very nearly cut into the Carolina lead, but Curtis McElhinney remained perfect through the swarm.

His effort were rewarded at the 6:52 mark when noted offensive dynamo Greg McKegg tallied his second point of his Hurricanes debut - a deflection that Bobrovsky couldn’t keep out of the net.

The goal made it 3-0 and promptly put an end to Bobrovsky’s evening. The Canes knocked out their second goalie in as many home games and Joonas Korpisalo was called upon to clean up the mess in goal.

John Tortorella’s message was sent. And his club received it.

After a couple of key saves from Korpisalo, the Jackets really started to buzz.

At 15:40 of the second period, Oliver Bjorkstrand took a centering pass from Zach Werenski, used Jaccob Slavin as a screen and beat McElhinney over his glove-side shoulder to break the shut out and give Columbus some life.

All of 25 seconds later, the bread was delivered. Artemi Panarin made a quick decision with a loose puck and beat an out-of-position McElhinney. Just like that, it was groundhog day. The Canes quickly squandered their comfortable lead and were flirting with disaster just like they did in Philadelphia the night before and so many other times to this point in the season.

At the end of 40 minutes, the Canes were just barely hanging onto remains of a lead that they had spent the better part of 30 minutes getting.

The opening moments of the third period were dominated by the Blue Jackets. They had a number of high-danger chances, including a backdoor tap-in chance that McElhinney barely kept out of the net with his outstretched pad.

The Canes looked gassed, until they got one strong push which led to a hooking penalty on Brandon Dubinsky. The ensuing power play was largely disappointing. It was a huge chance for them to put the game away, but they couldn’t do more than cycle the puck around the outside of the Columbus zone.

Down the stretch, the Canes did their best to play preventative defense, and they were able to escape with a win in hand after a buzzer-beater empty-net goal from Sebastian Aho.

The final score was 4-2. The Canes are winners of three straight games, all of which have come against divisional rivals.

Carolina has clawed their way back over NHL .500 at 18-17-5. Where they go from here will decide their season. They desperately need to get it going if they want to be in the playoff hunt come February and March. It’s an uphill battle, but they’re going to give it their best shot.

Postgame Quotes

Greg McKegg

[On trying to make an impact in his first game in Carolina] You just kinda want to put your best foot forward and contribute any way you can. To chip in at this level, it’s special. To help out (in the win) was pretty awesome.

[On the fourth line’s contributions] I think we just tried to focus on getting pucks deep and grinding down low. We were able to wear them down a little bit. Any time we can contribute offensively is obviously key.

[On how he has consistently gotten NHL action with every team he has been with] It’s special, I think. You never know when it’s going to come again. You just gotta keep grinding away. To be able to contribute at this level, at any point in your career, is special.

Rod Brind’Amour

[On the game] It got a little crazy, yeah. We came out great. I felt the guys, just to a man, were on it. Of course, it helped to get the lead. Every part of our game was pretty solid. (The Blue Jackets) got a great team over there. You could see their high-end players took over for a couple of minutes and they got themselves back into the game. I thought we came back in the third and played fairly well.

[On the strong performance from the fourth line] They were the difference. No doubt. They were, probably, our best line, overall. If you look at the shifts that they had, they didn’t have many bad (shifts). They pretty much dominated every shift they were out there. Obviously, the goals help. They kinda changed the momentum of the game.

[On how McKegg keeps working to get his chances in the NHL] I love it. He’s a pro. We did a nice job getting him in our organization. He had a great training camp and he was right there (with regards to making the NHL team). So, it was an easy call-up and, obviously, he’s trying to stay here.

[On if Saku Maenalanen is making a case for himself to stick around in the NHL] Yep. Yep. He had a good camp, too. The one thing we do have in this organization, I feel like, is a lot of those type of players that we can count on to come up. They did more, tonight, than just fill a spot. They contributed. The were noticeable. That’s what we need. If we want to have a chance to get back into (the playoff picture), they need to contribute.

[On what they learned from their scare in Philadelphia on Thursday] Well, apparently, not as much as I would like. We talked about it, and the guys understand. You have to remember, we’re not going to play a perfect game. We’re fighting for inches. If we come off of (our game), the other team’s getting paid a lot of money to (play), too, so you have to give them credit. They made some nice plays. I know we’ve learned (how to stay in control when the other team gets back into the game). There’s one way to play for us. We gotta keep out foot on the gas and keep playing ‘in your face’ hockey. The minute you take a breath, most of the time, it’s in our net. We have definitely learned our lesson.

[On McElhinney] When we need a save, he gets it. They had a lot of rush opportunities and they were flying at us, and you’re kinda like ‘oh no’, but he calms it down. He makes a big save when he has to. He gets a whistle when he has to. Whatever we need. He’s been great all year.