Somewhat lost in the now-viral Don Cherry “bunch of jerks” comments from last Saturday was Cherry’s seeming ignorance of the role Justin Williams plays in organizing the Storm Surge which follows each Canes’ home win. “Imagine Justin Williams doing stuff like that,” Cherry grumbled. In the eyes of Cherry, the three-time Stanley Cup winner should be above such displays.
On Thursday night in South Florida, Williams made it clear that his post-game celebrations haven’t diminished his toughness one bit, leading the Carolina Hurricanes to a comeback 4-3 in over the Florida Panthers that put the Canes back into a playoff position.
Entering Thursday’s game against the Panthers, Williams had played 1222 NHL games and scored 304 goals during his 18 year NHL career. It’s unlikely that he’s ever scored one less pleasant than his 305th.
Just over five minutes into the game, Brett Pesce’s wrister from just outside the left circle went high and wide, catching the Canes’ captain in the face. The puck deflected past Panthers goalie James Reimer, giving the Canes an early 1-0 lead and Williams his 16th goal of the season.
Nino Niederreiter would extend the Canes lead in the second period with a nifty skate to stick play following a deflection of a Jaccob Slavin point shot.
On a night where 13 penalties were called, special teams would play an important role. The Canes went 2 for 8 on the power play, while failing to score on a 27 second 5-on-3 advantage at the end of the second period and a full two minute 5-on-3 advantage in the third. Bad breaks were partly to blame. Micheal Ferland’s tip of a Dougie Hamilton point shot went off the outside of the post on one power play. Sebastian Aho hit the post on two other power plays.
After a sluggish start, the Panthers found their legs in the second period which saw them pour in three goals, two on the powerplay. Evgenii Dadonov cut the lead in half off a behind the net pass from Jayce Hawryluk. Then Aleksander Barkov cashed in on the power play with the rarely seen “mid-air-backhand-one-timer” off of a slap pass from the aforementioned Dadonov. Finishing off the run of three straight goals for the Panthers was Jonathan Huberdeau, who was able to coast through the slot before snapping a wrister past Mrazek. Huberdeau’s goal gave Florida the 3-2 lead on their second PP goal of the night.
Rod Brind’Amour had seen enough. The Canes’ coach called his timeout following Huberdeau’s goal and let his team have it from behind the bench. The verbal lashing seemed to pay off as the Canes grabbed the momentum for the rest of the game.
Justin Faulk tied the game 19 seconds into the third period on the power play, with assists credited to Teravainen and Niederreiter. Then, Williams drew a penalty after slipping past his defender in the offensive zone. On the ensuing power play, he broke clear on the offensive zone entry and finished top-shelf for his 306th career goal and what would prove to be the game winner.
Williams was named the first star. He ended the night with 2 goals, 1 assist, 5 shots on goal, and several stitches to the face. Imagine Justin Williams doing stuff like that.
- Petr Mrazek earned his 14th win of the season.
- This was the first of a two-game “mentors” road trip for the Canes. They are being accompanied by their fathers, uncles, and others who helped them in their journeys to becoming professional hockey players.
- With the win, the Canes (70 pts) leapfrogged the idle Columbus Blue Jackets (69 pts) into the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the San Jose Sharks 4-0, meaning the Canes picked up 2 points on Pittsburgh (71 pts) in the race for a top 3 spot in the Metropolitan Division.
- “That was a tough shot…I missed my mark by a little bit.” - Brett Pesce on his 1st period shot that hit Justin Williams.
- “We don’t have to wait until we get down to get mad.” - Justin Williams on lessons learned from the game.