The finale of a lengthy and prosperous five-game Western Conference road trip provided the Carolina Hurricanes with a tough goaltending battle featuring James Reimer and Philipp Grubauer. Out of seemingly nowhere, the Canes notched three goals in the final three minutes to steal a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, completing what statistically is the best five-game roadtrip in franchise history.
The first period began quickly with something that would become a bit of a pattern for the Canes on Thursday as Reimer was penalized less than a minute into the game for tripping. The surging Canes special teams were able to provide the penalty kill for that infraction, as well as the two additional penalties committed in the first stanza.
While the Canes killed each of those as a collective group, the showcase in net from Reimer was a harbinger for things to come as the Carolina backstop provided extremely high-level play throughout the night. Despite quality chances on both end, Reimer and Grubauer each kept the puck out of their net in the first.
The second period again saw the Canes run into penalty trouble with a Dougie Hamilton hook followed soon after by a Warren Foegele delay of game that gave the Avs over 20 seconds of five-on-three play. During that sequence and the remaining power play, Reimer stood tall and made a series of saves, including a spectacular blocker save on Nathan Mackinnon to keep the score tied at 0-0.
With the Avs peppering Reimer, Carolina was presented with a power play chance with six minutes remaining in the second. Although they were able to produce five shots on the man advantage, they were again unable to break the stalemate. Ultimately, the two teams headed to the third period without having broken the ice, with the Canes carrying a 28-24 advantage in shots in this highly entertaining scoreless contest.
The third period began with a clear sense that the first goal in the game would carry serious weight in determining the outcome. But unfortunately, the Canes were again penalized less than three minutes into the third for the sixth time on the night. The sixth time proved to be deadly as Nathan MacKinnon finally broke loose in the offensive zone and squeaked one past Reimer with a textbook screen in front from Gabriel Landeskog. That important goal would be overshadowed by the incredible finish as the final period waged on.
Trailing for the first time all night, the Canes immediately went about creating more offense. Grubauer, however, continued to have the answers as the Canes created chance after chance in and around the crease, including shots and jam chances with traffic all around. After continuing to push pucks to the net, the Canes finally got the bounce they needed as Jordan Staal directed the puck to the net from the corner while Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov hacked away, with Svechnikov ultimately slipping the puck past Grubauer with under three minutes remaining.
With visions of stealing the two points to close out the road trip, and with Grubauer’s armor pierced for the first time, the Canes continued to apply pressure. Rushing the puck back into the zone, Jaccob Slavin worked along with Lucas Wallmark on what was a wing-to-wing pass that ended with Slavin smashing the go-ahead goal home just 1:17 after the tying marker. The tally proved to be the game-winning goal for the Colorado native.
Stunned, the Avs were unable to create any further quality chances, and when Sebastian Aho ended the scoring on an empty-netter with just seconds remaining, the Canes finished their incredible trip with their most improbable finish of the journey.
The Canes completed their western trip with nine of a possible ten points as they try to keep up with their Metropolitan Division rivals. Both goalies were on their game as Reimer provided 27 saves, while Grubauer stopped 37 shots in a losing effort. The Canes return home to face the Florida Panthers on Saturday as they will look to extend their seven game points streak.