RALEIGH, NC - Fresh off of the bye week, the Carolina Hurricanes needed a strong start to their remaining 32 games of the 2018-19 regular season.
It didn’t look like it would be a fun night early, but the Canes dominated almost from start to finish en route to an impressive 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
A bad early penalty from Justin Williams gave Vegas the game’s first power play, and they took advantage. Just over a minute into the 5-on-4 sequence, Shea Theodore sent a long-range one-timer up and over the outstretched glove of Petr Mrazek and the road team had a 1-0 lead.
Early on, it was Vegas who controlled play as they executed a pretty simple style of play, which was the way to go after a long break. There were times in the first period where the Hurricanes tried to do too much, and it resulted in some missed opportunities.
Just over half-way through the first period, the Hurricanes got a bounce and got right back into the game. A nasty back-heel pass off the skate of Justin Williams got the puck on Nino Niederreiter’s stick in the slot, and yet again he did not miss.
With a secondary assist on the goal, Justin Faulk became the franchise’s all-time leader in points from a defenseman.
After a slow start, the Canes got to their game and had a strong second half. The game was knotted up at a goal apiece after 20 minutes.
All of 47 seconds into the second period, Maxime Lagace got a little too adventurous. The young goalie, who was making his first NHL start of the season, sprawled out to break up a cross-seam pass and inadvertently put it right on the stick of Brett Pesce in the high slot, and he was able to navigate the puck into the yawning Vegas cage to make it 2-1 in favor of the home team.
A back and forth middle frame gave way to the game’s fourth goal with just over two minutes left in the period. A collision in the neutral zone took out two Canes skaters and the Golden Knights took advantage of the situation by way of Theodore sniping home his second goal of the night on the odd-man rush.
What looked like a downer entering the second intermission was quickly forgotten as new father and owner of $4 million over the next two years Jordan Martinook ripped home a centering pass from Brock McGinn on a transition chance and just like the Canes were in front again at 3-2.
In his 51st of the game, Martinook netted his 11th goal of the year, which tied his career-high for a single season. After the game, he said he had one thought after scoring his big goal: his newborn son.
Sports can be pretty freaking cool.
Just moments after just barely missing the net on a chance to make it 4-2, Sebastian Aho made sure not to miss a second time.
Flying up the wing, Aho snuck a backhander up and by Lagace from an impossible angle and the Canes were off and running in the third period.
Carolina managed to lock things down the rest of the way and add a long-range ENG off the stick of Justin Faulk en route to an impressive 5-2 win on home ice in front of a home crowd of 17,000+.
The Canes have now won three of their last four games and secured points in each of those four games thanks to an OTL in Calgary. With Buffalo’s loss, the Hurricanes now have sole possession of ninth-place in the Eastern Conference. They’re just three points behind Columbus for the final playoff spot.
[On his good week] I don’t know if I want to have another baby yet, but I definitely want to have another week like that... If I have another one of those weeks, it’ll be good.
[On his goal] (It feels good to contribute) whenever you can contribute, I mean it sounds cliche, but yeah, that one felt pretty good. As soon as I scored, I just had one thought in my mind, and it was my kid. So, yeah, it was pretty cool.
[On the game and Carolina’s strong play as of late] I think there was maybe five minutes where we didn’t really play our hockey. Coming out of the break, that’s a good game to build off of, especially the way we were playing before the break. To not take a step back and just keep going is big for this group. We can’t let any games slip. The desperation (from the Canes) in that game shows how much everybody cares in here and how much we want to keep pushing this thing forward.
[On Carolina’s strong play as of late] We do so many things better now than we did earlier in the year
[On getting better at the smaller details] Yeah, we are a younger team, so we’re learning every day. When you get those wins, maybe you start believing (in yourself) more. That’s the way we have to do that every night.
[On Carolina’s effort coming off of the bye week] It was a real solid effort. I think both teams probably thought they were a little sluggish - not too sharp. The execution level wasn’t great, but the effort level was high.
[On how Niederreiter has fit in so far] He has fit in great - we knew he was a good player. Whenever you bring someone into the group you always worry about how he will fit. He has fit in extremely well and contributing the way he is, is making it a lot better.
[On how they limited Vegas’ chances] The chances they created were the ones we gave them. It was on our stick and then we made a turnover. When we managed the puck (well) in our end, they didn’t get much, but at the end of the day I was just happy with our third period.