The Hurricanes picked up a pivotal, rebound win against Buffalo at home last night after being shut out in Columbus the night before. Despite a rough first 10 minutes, the team eventually got going and took control thanks to some big saves from Curtis McElhinney. Making it an even better day for the Canes was that the team finally got some help elsewhere. Of all the teams the Canes are competing with for playoff positioning, the Blue Jackets got one point, that’s it.
Let’s take a look at some key takeaways from the Canes’ 4-2 victory, both inside and outside PNC Arena.
The Bad: First 10 minutes- For the first half of Friday’s opening period, it looked like the Canes were looking at a repeat of the previous night’s game in Columbus, or, worse, last Friday’s game against Winnipeg.
Carolina was outshot 7-1 through the first 10 minutes, and was fortunate a Jeff Skinner centering pass that somehow got through McElhinney’s pads was all Buffalo put on the scoresheet.
Thanks to some big stops from McElhinney, the Canes were able to stay in the game and eventually get going, but could have easily been down by or three.
This is now three of the last four games the Canes have gotten off to a rough start, and it can’t keep happening. The team needs to bring its A-game out of the gate in these pivotal games, especially against some of the upcoming competition, if it wants to finish the job and clinch a spot in the postseason.
The good: Wallmark gets it going, McElhinney, a gorgeous goal- This is cheating, but the Canes had a few good developments that led to the win. Number one is McElhinney. He made a number of grade-A stops, including on a second-period breakaway, to keep the Canes in the game. He ultimately stopped 35 of 37 shots, and was arguably the biggest reason for the victory. Brind’Amour commented after the game on how the goaltending has repeatedly kept the team in games, and he’s right. Carolina will need to keep getting that consistent goaltending over its last 11 games of the regular season.
The game-tying goal in the first period that snapped the Canes out of their funk came on a high-effort play from Lucas Wallmark. After a Jordan Martinook shot somehow squeezed through Linus Ullmark’s pads and was lying in the crease behind him, Wallmark fought his way to the puck and popped it in. After that goal, the Canes got going, and carried the play for the rest of the third period.
The go-ahead goal came on a gorgeous feed from Teuvo Teravainen early in the second period. He set up along the boards and fed a cross-ice pass to Andrei Svechnikov at the far side, and the rookie tapped it in. Your best players need to be your best players, and two of the Canes’ most talented combined to put Carolina in front for good.
The great: Finally, some help- The Canes had by far the best day of any team fighting for positioning in the East. With the win, an overtime loss by Columbus and regulation losses by the Penguins, Canadiens, Capitals and Islanders, Carolina is in a great spot with 11 games left.
The Canes lead Montreal, the team outside the playoffs, by four points, and Columbus, the second wild card, by one point. The team trails Pittsburgh by two points for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders by four for second and the Capitals by six for first.
The Canes have a game in hand on all of Columbus, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Washington. The team can’t relax just yet, but it’s getting closer to being able to leave Montreal in the rearview and worry about seeding.
The Canes have a good chance to finish third with that game in hand and two games left against the Penguins, whose importance can’t be overstated. A home tilt with Montreal next Sunday could have the team in a position to really put itself in front of the Habs for good.
While catching New York or Washington is less likely, the Canes do have two games left against the Caps.
The team still can’t afford a slip up, and we all know how much a couple nights of bad results could change things, but, with 11 games to go, the Canes controls their own destiny to finish at least third in the metro.