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Recap: Hurricanes survive offensive challenges in SO win over Islanders

Justin Williams was the deciding factor, because of course he was.

Kaydee Gawlik

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes need goals, no matter where they come from, but somehow they managed to overcome their power outage and secure two precious points.

Andrei Svechnikov scored the only Canes goal from open play and added one in the shootout, with the returning hero Justin Williams deciding things in the eighth round of the shootout as the Hurricanes hung on for dear life in a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday that put Carolina back in an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

James Reimer stood tall, making 26 saves, many of them in spectacular fashion. But it was the Hurricanes’ inability to generate offense that defined the night, none more glaring than when Brock McGinn missed a tap-in midway through the second period that would have put the Hurricanes up 2-0 at the time.

What little offense the Hurricanes generated came mostly in the first ten minutes, which included the opening goal of the game. Brett Pesce recorded his 100th career assist by setting up Andrei Svechnikov for a one-timer, and Svechnikov’s shot from the top of the far circle broke Islanders defender Noah Dobson’s stick, changing direction enough to fool Thomas Greiss and give Svechnikov his 19th of the season.

Williams, in his return to game action after taking the first part of the season off, nearly made it a two-goal lead a couple of minutes later when he fired wide on Greiss from an open shot in the high slot. But as the period went on, the Islanders started tilting the ice toward Reimer, and their solid control of the game got firmer throughout the second period. The Hurricanes netminder stood tall time after time, none bigger than when he shut down Anthony Beauvillier twice on consecutive shifts.

Reimer saw the puck well most of the night, but was done no favors when the Islanders tied the game with 56 seconds remaining in the second. Casey Cizikas’ shot bounced off Reimer, and in the process of trying to help his goalie out Jaccob Slavin pushed the puck away from the netminder, giving Anders Lee an empty net with under a minute to go.

The Islanders kept at it, looking for the go-ahead goal, but Reimer kept holding them at bay. His best save may have come five minutes into the third period, when he sprawled to stop a deflected shot, going down prone on the ice to keep Leo Komarov’s tip from crossing the line. From there, the Hurricanes slowly started asserting the play a bit more, and had a golden opportunity at the end of a power play when Nino Niederreiter’s backhand bit grazed the goalpost to Greiss’ left.

Carolina averted disaster with three minutes left when Mathew Barzal beat Reimer on a partial breakaway but put the puck square off the right post. The Canes then seemed to get some momentum from the near-miss, with Joel Edmundson cruising down the slot with 90 seconds remaining but firing just wide. It was firewagon hockey in the final minute, with chances on both sides, but neither team could convert and the game went to the extra period.

The goalies continued to show off at 3-on-3, with Greiss stonewalling Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho on successive shifts. But the shooters had the upper hand in the skills competition, with Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen converting for the Hurricanes and Barzal and Beauvillier putting it in for the Islanders. And after four shooters from each team missed, Justin Williams beat Greiss and Reimer stoned Lee to send the sellout crowd home happy, with Williams leading a Storm Surge saluting the crowd at center ice on Military Appreciation Night.

They Said It

Rod Brind’Amour:

I wasn’t really waiting (to send Williams out), but Dougie’s out, and he’s the one guy we usually feel pretty good about, and after that I kind of go by feel. He had a good game. He was definitely a guy I was going to throw out there, it was just a matter of when. (You can’t make up that ending, can you?) Not really. Only Willy can make that up. In hindsight now I wish I would have done it earlier. I kind of forgot that ovation was going to come. The game’s still going on, but that was nice with the crowd. Special moment.

It’s a pretty exciting game, that’s for sure. I think everybody enjoyed it, so that’s good. It has (been tight) for a while, and that’s because everyone’s in it. Everyone understands that all these points are so valuable. The push has been on for a little while. It’s kind of like last year for us, it felt like the push was a month ago, and it just kind of keeps going. We needed those points. It was a good night.

Both teams played pretty similar. Little different in some areas, but same philosophies, and they put a lot of pucks from the point and get the rebounds looking for seconds and thirds. We do a lot of the same things. They do a nice job blocking shots, so it’s a game that played out exactly how we thought it was going to play out. Fortunately we got the win.

(Reimer) was great tonight. Even there at the end there were a bunch of chances for both teas, all of a sudden there at the end it opened up, there were a lot of grade-A looks for both groups. Reims stood his ground. Another solid game out of him.

(Williams) certainly didn’t look out of place, right from the start. His first shift was a good shift, so that was encouraging. I expected him to be a little more rusty, to be honest with you, just the pace - because that was a fast-paced. game too. But he fit right in. I was nervous for him (chuckles) because I understand, when you’ve been out that long, that’s what made me nervous for him. But he put in the work, and it showed.

At the eight minute mark I went down to three lines and wanted to get our other guys out there. Nothing against anything (Haula, Necas and Dzingel) were doing, you’ve just got to shorten your bench at some point and try to get that win before overtime, that’s what we were thinking.

Pretty solid effort on the back end. That’s how it’s going to have to look. Everyone’s going to have to chip in and make plays when they have to make plays. We’re kind of relying on everyone, and I thought that’s what it felt like tonight. It was a good group effort from our defense.

(On Slavin going to the All-Star game:) It’s not gratifying for me, really, I know what kind of player he is. We all do. He’s an all-star, there’s no question. I’m happy for him that he gets to go and be around those guys. It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s something you can take a lot out of, when you go around and see the best players and you kind of hang out with them and play with them. It can up his game too.

James Reimer:

It was all a conspiracy from the beginning (writing a script for Williams to win it), that was always the plan. We fooled everyone. No, obviously I’d have liked to have made the save on Beauvillier (in the shootout) and have it over a lot sooner, but it is what was it is. Greiss is a heck of a goalie and a heck of a shootout goalie, so for us to get three through on him is big. It’s really a testament to some of the skill we have in here. And obviously when Willy’s scoring, you have to make that save. You just try to be big, hold your ground and make the read at the end. Luckily I made the right one.

I thought we played a hard game, all game long. That’s an honest team over there. They chip pucks in, they don’t give you an inch, they don’t turn the puck over, they just work, work, work. So we had to make sure we brought that same type of game. I think this is exactly what the coaches would have in mind at the end of the game. We were just lucky enough to get some production in the shootout and a big two points.

Anytime you play consecutive games and you’re in there, the little nuances just instinctually take over. In that sense it’s “easier”, but at the same time there’s other things that make it harder too. So you just have to take it in stride and keep doing the same things every day in practice. The biggest thing is the mindset. You’ve got to have the right mindset. You have to know that you’ve got to work, you’ve got to grind, and you have to stick to exactly what makes you successful.

Justin Williams:

I was nervous the whole game, to be honest. It was a playoff game out there, that’s what it felt like. Teams weren’t giving an inch, there were chances either way - and it could have gone either way, obviously. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to take a penalty shot. I said before the game “trust yourself, trust your ability, trust your instincts and go get it.” That’s what got me here, and that’s what will keep me going further.

I assumed I’d be on the 10-12 sheet if we kept going a little further, but he tapped me a little earlier than I thought. He’s a very patient goalie, so I figured I’d try and shoot it five-hole. (Could you have scripted it any better?) Well, yeah, I could have been less nervous throughout the game. It was a really, really well-contested hockey game. They played hard, we played hard, and both teams were patient enough to get that last point, and then you never know.

I thought it tailed off a little bit there in the third period, I thought we could have been a little bit better. The first couple periods we were moving it, and when you’re away from the game for a long time you don’t want to overhandle the puck. You want to get it in, get hit - or be hit, or throw a hit, just get involved in the game - and that’s what I tried to do. My linemates were great tonight.

(Did being nervous catch you by surprise?) I think maybe it did. The butterflies are gone, but you settle yourself down. I’ve played more than 1200 of these, and I’m like “alright Justin, get real here, you can do this.” Listen, it was fun, we got what we we wanted - two points - and we’ve got another one before the break that we’ve got to focus on.

Game Notes

  • No kidding, that was a playoff game played in mid-January. There was absolutely no open ice for the Hurricanes in the final 40 minutes or so. The Islanders are so patient, even when you’d think they wouldn’t be - they looked like they were killing a penalty in the final minute of overtime, when most other teams would be trying to drive the net at all costs.
  • Williams’ shootout goal was his first in more than six years. He last scored in the skills challenge when he was with the Kings on November 27, 2013 against the Sharks. You have to go back two years before that to find his most recent game-winning shootout goal, November 16, 2011 against the Ducks.
  • It was noteworthy that, when Brind’Amour shortened his bench, that he did it by benching what would normally be called his third line. Necas took a shift in overtime, but that was it, other than Dzingel and Necas getting the call in the shootout. Even with that, Williams played the fewest minutes of any player, at 13:06.
  • Slavin: 26:39. Pesce: 26:14. The Big Two were nearly five minutes ahead of the field; Gardiner at 21:49 was the only other defenseman north of 20 minutes. That pair is going to earn their paychecks over the next three months, that’s for sure.
  • The Canes practice tomorrow at PNC at noon prior to the final game before the All-Star break, Tuesday night against Winnipeg.