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Recap: Aho hat trick, Teravainen assist wizardry power Hurricanes to win over Wild

It was a Finnish show to remember, and they made it count.

Kaydee Gawlik

RALEIGH — Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho grew up three years apart in Finland and never played together before they became Carolina Hurricanes teammates in 2016. But the connection between the two is so airtight that you could be forgiven for thinking they had grown up as neighbors and played together for as long as either could remember.

Aho tallied a career-high five points, including his third career hat trick, and Teravainen had three remarkable assists as the Hurricanes swept the season series against the Minnesota Wild with a 6-2 win on Star Wars Night at PNC Arena on Saturday.

It didn’t start nearly as easily as it finished. Carolina came out skating in quicksand from the start, and it took just four shifts for the Wild to grab a 1-0 lead through Ryan Donato, who whiffed on a bouncing puck in the slot but corralled his own rebound off Mrazek’s pads and surprised the goalie with a quick recovery. Lucas Wallmark then tied the game off a perfect pass from below the goal line by Ryan Dzingel nine minutes in, and the Canes had their legs back underneath them.

And then, the Finnish Variety Hour began.

After Aho drew two penalties on the same play, consigning to the penalty box Joel Ericsson Ek for holding and Jordan Greenway for tripping, the Canes were rewarded with a two-minute five-on-three advantage. The Wild played deep off the points, and that allowed Teravainen to skate to the top of the circle untouched and wire a perfect diagonal pass across the slot to Andrei Svechnikov, who couldn’t miss on a tap-in to give the Hurricanes a lead they would never relinquish.

After the intermission, Teravainen and Aho combined yet again for a play that left the sellout crowd picking their jaws up off the floor. Aho picked up the puck off a Ryan Suter turnover and laced a perfect drop pass to Teravainen trailing the play. Aho then cut across the slot and Teravainen found him for a perfect one-timer to give the Canes a two-goal lead.

On the one play where Teravainen didn’t either score or set up a goal, his missed shot midway through the second set up the Wild on an odd-man break the other way. Mats Zuccarello finished off a pass from old friend Eric Staal, bringing the Wild back to within one and continuing Zuccarello’s inexplicable mastery of the Hurricanes. Call him the Norwegian Olli Jokinen: it was Zuccarello’s eighth goal and 30th point in 33 career games against Carolina.

But then leave it to the Canes’ Finnish connection to restore order. With Kevin Fiala in the box for high-sticking late in the period, Aho tallied his second of the night with a redirection from the top of the crease from another on-the-tape pass from Teravainen, who leads the Canes with 22 assists and moved into the top ten of the league standings, tied with Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinn Hughes of Vancouver.

The Wild turned up the offensive pressure in the third period, keeping the Canes hemmed in their own zone of repeated shifts, but even with that Teravainen nearly tallied his fourth assist, with the snakebit Nino Niederreiter somehow unable to finish off a chance from the top of the blue paint five minutes in. Mrazek, though, held the fort down, and the Canes to their credit made his job easy by only allowing 7 Wild shots.

Finally, the Canes got their lead padded out to three goals with 7:36 remaining. Aho’s second assist and fourth point of the night was a faceoff win back to Joel Edmundson at the left point, who one-timed it through traffic and past Alex Stalock to put the Canes up 5-2.

The Hurricanes had to kill off a late power play on a Clark Bishop tripping power play, and Aho finished the hat trick into the empty net with 1:21 remaining to record the third hat trick of his career and set a new career high with five points in a single game.

They Said It

Rod Brind’Amour:

It’s always hard work, that’s first and foremost, but I think the two of them have always had a little chemistry together. When they’re engaged like that, playing well away from the puck, and Seabass especially, they’re a real special group because they create more chances.

The elite players, they know where everyone is on the ice, and (Teravainen) is one of those. He’s a playmaker. The best players, they don’t need to look around. They know where everybody is, and he’s had that ability. He was special tonight, for sure.

We practice (5-on-3s) a little, and we talk about it a little, but you’re right, you don’t see it too often. But a lot of times, you just put your best guys out there and make your plays. There are certain fundamentals on 5-on-3s, certain rotations, and at the end of the day your guys have to make some plays. That was certainly a great play.

(Teravainen’s) game is just generally good all the time. Whether he’s scoring or not, he’s usually getting chances and creating chances, and I know the other night he had two or three grade-As. To me, we’ve talked enough about it, but over the last couple of years it’s the improvement in his overall game. The defensive side of things is, to me, where he’s really stepped it up.

We were solid for the most part. You’re always going to have some moments, but I just liked the way the game felt the whole way. Even though we gave up one early, we were on it tonight and special teams were good, which helps. We had some huge kills. Overall it was just solid by everyone. There’s always moments in a game where things can go sideways, but the kills were huge. They had a couple looks, but for the most part I thought we were pretty solid. Third period they were going to open it up a bit, and it got a little crazy for a little while, but the fifth goal took the wind out of their sails.

When we can separate Svechnikov and (Teravainen/Aho), now we have two really good lines that can score. Having Nino with Seabass and Turbo provides that for us. He was good, and he was good the other night. He’s been snakebit a little this year, but the coaches have all noticed that he’s coming around. If we can get him going, that’s going to be huge for us, but he was good again.

Sebastian Aho:

I guess I try to score five points every night, but it’s a little hard to do that. You want to score a lot of points and want to produce for the team, but you don’t think about “OK, I have to score a hat trick right now” or something like that. Today was one of those days where I got all the bounces.

It just shows how smart (Teravainen) is. He’s an unbelievable passer, and a couple of tap-ins with me and Svech. We’ve been together so long now, so it’s pretty awesome to have him here. He’s been with me my whole NHL career, so it’s pretty special.

It’s going to be a long and tough road trip for us, so it was really good to get these points at home. We want to keep building on this and play even better.

(Are you superstitious?) You know what? Bobby (Gorman, Canes equipment manager) gave me these new shorts. I think that’s huge. They were pretty good today.

Teuvo Teravainen:

It’s going to be a pretty good road trip, a lot of good teams, so we just have to go and keep fighting game by game. It’s good that we ended up winning a couple at home. That’s big, and we just need to continue getting better.

(Aho) is good at finding some open ice and getting open for me. If I see anyone open I usually try to pass to them. (Have you ever had so much chemistry with a teammate before?) I don’t know. That’s a tough question. Maybe. I dunno. (chuckles)

I feel like there’s some nights we haven’t played very good, but overall I think we’re pretty good together, we just read each other pretty good. He’s pretty fast, and he thinks fast out there on the ice. I don’t know, it’s tough to say, but it feels easy sometimes.

We have some set plays (on a 5-on-3) that we try to do, but they were taking Dougie away pretty good so I though I’d try to find some guys around the net. Of course they have to be ready all the time.

Game Notes

  • Aho is the seventh player since the Hurricanes moved to North Carolina to register a five-point game. Eric Staal did it four times, and the others had one apiece: Ray Whitney, Tuomo Ruutu, Elias Lindholm, Ron Francis, and the man behind the bench tonight.
  • One of the great things about talking to Aho over the past four years is how comfortable he’s become cracking jokes with the media. When he called out Bob Gorman for his newfound lucky shorts, Gorman was just outside of the scrum and everyone, including him, lost it laughing. He’s just a gem.
  • He’s also now just a goal away from 100 in his career with the Hurricanes, and this was his 272nd career game tonight.
  • Look out world, Joel Edmundson is almost halfway to his career high in goals for a season. He tallied seven in the 2017-18 season, and he’s had three in the first 30 games this year, so he’s right on pace.
  • Last season, it took the Hurricanes until January 3 to record 20 goals on the power play. They hit that mark tonight, in 43 fewer opportunities: they’ve had 93 power plays this year, and it took them 136 last year to get to 20 goals.
  • Following the game, the Hurricanes reassigned both Clark Bishop and Brian Gibbons to the Charlotte Checkers. That bodes well for a potential return of Martin Necas and maybe Erik Haula on Tuesday in Edmonton, given that the Checkers are off until next weekend. (Or maybe they play seven defensemen again?)
  • The Hurricanes will have the day off tomorrow, but will practice Monday at RCI before jumping on a flight to Edmonton to begin their longest road trip of the season on Tuesday night.