With their 5-2 defeat of the New York Islanders last night, the Carolina Hurricanes put themselves in a fantastic position now leading the series 3-0. Curtis McElhinney was everything the team needed him to be in net, while the two Justins and Teuvo Teravainen led the way offensively. The Canes now have an opportunity to come back on Friday and finish off this series with a clean sweep of the Islanders.
The Good - MacDaddy
When Petr Mrazek was injured in Game 2 the national media went into panic mode because they had no content ready for an incoming Curtis McElhinney. Scrambling for a storyline, they settled on the journeyman goalie who swoops in to save the Hurricanes’ season. Yet what they failed to realize is without McElhinney the Hurricanes wouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Without McElhinney’s dominating performances in November and December, there would be no round two in Raleigh.
Caniacs everywhere knew McElhinney would be fine in net, and fine he was. There will never be the flashiness to McElhinney that Mrazek brings, but the end result is what matters. Curtis was calm and collected making multiple huge saves throughout the game to keep it tied at numerous points. He was everything the Canes needed him to be.
The Hurricanes will need McElhinney to bring it again on Friday as Mrazek is likely going to be out for a few more days, and after last night there is no reason to believe The Wolf won’t be spectacular once again.
The Better - Turn on the Turbo
Teuvo Teravainen continues to be one of the best players on the ice for the Hurricanes during the playoffs. Last night he scored his fourth and fifth goals of the postseason, bringing him in to a tie with Warren Foegele for the most on the team. His goal in the first period opened the scoring in the game and helped set the tone of the match.
Jaccob Slavin made the play getting the puck across ice to Teravainen who played it off his skate and then tapped it in.
The Canes need their big names to produce on the scoreboard and Teravainen has been happy to oblige. His empty netter to seal the game late in the third nearly knocked the roof off PNC Arena and it was a microcosm play of what Teravainen is to the Hurricanes: first winning a board battle, then having the moves to get the puck up ice and firing it from beyond the blue line to put the game away.
Turbo went in to this season being labeled as Sebastian Aho’s sidekick. He sure has kicked that notion to the curb. Teuvo Teravainen is just as important to this team as Aho is but the two don’t need each other to succeed and that has been a massive key to the Hurricanes’ overall success this season.
The Great - The Justins Are Faulking Amazing
Every season, there are a few goals one distinctly remembers exactly how they happened. Justin Faulk gave us one of those goals last night.
At 9:51 of the second period Faulk took a hooking penalty. Two minutes later, he exited the box with his team successfully killing the infractions. The next eight seconds will be on highlight reels remembering this glorious season for years to come.
Foegele launched a puck in to the air towards an exiting Faulk, who grabbed it out of mid air, played it to himself — all while staying onside — and walked in on a breakaway. It was a simple move to the backhand that put the puck past Robin Lehner, but it was super effective.
Faulk is having his best season as a Hurricane and it’s likely because he’s been able to learn from another Justin.
Justin Williams is to Raleigh now what Rod Brind’Amour was to Raleigh in 2006. He’s the fearless leader who not only leads the locker room, but gets the job done in clutch moments on the ice setting the PNC Arena (or RBC Center in Rod’s case) on fire.
Big moment after big moment have ended with timely goals by Williams this season, and last night was just another to add to the books. His third period goal to put the Canes ahead halfway through the third period turned out to be the game winning goal and it was as clutch as they come.
Sebastian Aho applied pressure to Lehner who turned the puck over and allowed Aho to find Williams in front of the net. All the credit on this goal should go to Aho who makes the play happen, but something about Williams knowing where to be and when is what makes him so good at succeeding in the clutch moments.
Justin Williams is the Carolina Hurricanes. He is a massive reason why this team is where they are today. Goals like that one are just his way of leading by example, and he has an entire team believing that if he can do it, they all can do it.
Moral of the Story
The Canes have earned everything this season. From being near the bottom of the standings in December to being one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, they have earned it. There is something magical in the air in Raleigh and it’s nowhere near being over. If the team can come together again on Friday with contributions all over the lineup like they did last night, there will be no Game 5 needed.
And really, does it get any better than Tripp Tracy leading a skol clap on the set of the postgame show on the south plaza?