Perhaps the Carolina Hurricanes’ secret weapon in the second half of the season is going to be getting games to the shootout, then letting sudden skills-competition wizard Justin Williams handle the rest.
For the second time in his four games after returning to the Hurricanes, Williams scored the game-winner in the shootout, the deciding moment in a back-and-forth 4-3 win for the Hurricanes over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, who overcame an early deficit and washed most of the bitter taste from Friday’s loss out of their mouths.
You could be forgiven, though, for thinking that history was going to repeat itself when the Canucks took a 1-0 lead five minutes in. James Reimer and every Hurricanes defender somehow lost track of where the puck went on a strangely-angled rebound, but to their misfortune the Canucks’ Elias Pettersson found it straight away and fired home past a helpless Reimer to drop the Hurricanes into a 1-0 hole.
But unlike Friday, when the Hurricanes didn’t answer the bell and sleepwalked their way to an inevitable loss, they turned up the pressure and kept the Canucks at bay. In what became a running theme, the Hurricanes went down a man twice, but both times generated scoring chances of their own, and while they ended the first period still trailing, it seemed more likely than not that they would break through sooner rather than later.
And that’s exactly what happened just over a minute into the second period. The snakebitten Nino Niederreiter finally broke his five-game goal drought with a gorgeous turnaround backhander. The tie became a Hurricanes lead before the Canucks could catch up when Sebastian Aho cleaned up a rebound off a Jaccob Slavin shot, and all of a sudden the Hurricanes were getting their rewards.
The Canucks, though, wouldn’t go down easily. Tyler Myers tied the game again late in the second, cleaning up another broken play in the crease when Slavin’s stick broke (provoking the ire of Tripp Tracy, whose crusade against stick manufacturers continues apace). The Hurricanes were earning no help from the officials, who missed a bevy of calls and gave Vancouver three power plays before the Hurricanes finally got their sole crack with the man advantage in the third period.
Then things went from bad to worse for the already-depleted Hurricanes. Already missing one top-four defenseman in Dougie Hamilton, the Canes then lost Brett Pesce when a shot took an awkward bounce off Pesce’s wrist, leading to a delay while the ice crew cleaned blood off the ice. Pesce went straight to the locker room with Hurricanes fans concerned for his well-being, only to be reassured by a source with knowledge of the situation:
No fracture, just getting stitched.— Brian pesce (@Brianpesce2) February 2, 2020
The Canes would take the lead again when Andrei Svechnikov turned Thatcher Demko inside-out early in the third period, but again the Canucks tied it with Pettersson’s second of the game, this one from parallel to the goal line from near the boards that somehow snuck through Reimer. The frustrations continued to mount for the Hurricanes, who got Pesce back in the third but lost Lucas Wallmark to an uncalled Tyler Myers headshot seconds before the Canucks got away with too many men on the ice.
Predictably, the crowd went full-throat at the officials when Haydn Fleury was whistled for a (legitimate) interference penalty not long after, but the Hurricanes pulled through and killed it off. While they couldn’t finish off the Canucks in regulation, they gladly took the single point and went to overtime, then to the shootout but not before Teravainen nearly ended it by forcing Demko to commit larceny with the shaft of his stick while sprawling to the ice.
Then, after the Hurricanes went down 1-0 in the shootout with Pettersson (who else?) scoring in the first round, they got goals from Teravainen and, finally, Williams, giving them a hard-earned win ahead of a four-game road trip that will cover more than a week and begins Tuesday in St. Louis.