There’s a lot to unpack here.
Last night, the Carolina Hurricanes entered the third period with a 2-0 deficit at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, one of the best teams in the National Hockey League and winners of four straight games before their tilt with the Canes in Raleigh.
As they have so many times over the last two seasons, though, Rod Brind’Amour’s team clawed their way back from the brink. Teuvo Teravainen scored twice in a span of 121 seconds in the early stages of the third period and it felt like the Canes were about to pull another one of those dramatic victories out of thin air (get it, because Colorado and mile high and “thin air” and it’s a joke about high elevation?).
It wasn’t in the stars for Carolina, though. A defensive breakdown from 19-year-old Andrei Svechnikov made the difference in the game. He lost Samuel Girard in coverage, and the Avs didn’t make it this far by squandering golden opportunities late in hockey games.
The loss hurts big time for the Hurricanes. They were 2:37 away from securing at least one point in a tough, hard-fought cross-conference game against a great team. Instead, their comeback effort was all for nothing.
Or, was it?
Let’s talk about last night.
The Jost with the Most
Through 40 minutes, the only player to find the back of the net was young Tyson Jost - twice.
Adding to the fun, Jost actually entered Friday’s game with a 36-game goal-scoring drought. Yes - 36 games, zero goals. He had scored one goal in his last 56 games. Naturally, he just went ahead and put two pucks by Anton Forsberg, who was making his Hurricanes debut.
His first goal was scored off of misplayed puck by Jake Gardiner. Jost swept in behind Gardiner without him knowing, lifted his stick, took the puck, and scored on the 2-on-1 chance that ensued.
His second goal was scored off of a turnover from Svechnikov. He couldn’t get the puck out of the zone, and the breakout was stolen by Cale Makar and reversed right back to a streaking Jost, who netted what felt like the dagger goal.
The Hurricanes weren’t playing poorly, but they were down 2-0 because the mistakes they did make ended up in the back of their net. A familiar storyline for this team as of late.
The Post with the Most
Puck luck is a cruel mistress, just ask anyone who has ever watched the Hurricanes play hockey.
Going back to their dance with the Stars on Tuesday, the vulcanized rubber disk just hadn’t been bouncing the right way for the Hurricanes. Anton Khudobin stood on his head at times and was the beneficiary of some bad Carolina bounces. On Friday, it was a combination of the red-hot Pavel Francouz and, again, some bad bounces.
In the early stages of the third period, Nikita Zadorov got two minutes for interfering with Justin Williams. On the ensuing power play, Sebastian Aho very nearly got the Canes on the board. Instead, the puck bounced off of the near-side post, off of the back of Francouz’s pad, and roughly an inch wide of the net on the other side.
Current state of the Hurricanes' puck luck pic.twitter.com/LTR6zDJTQV— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 29, 2020
It’s like the hockey gods were watching from the rafters and one of the hockey gods said to his hockey god buddy, “lol, hey dude, watch this”. I mean, the post is one thing, but the result of that bounce off of Francouz was just unnecessary.
In the first period, Svechnikov ripped a one-timer off of the far-side post on a power play in a much less hilarious fashion, but it was still painful. On a lot of nights, Svech puts it home and changes the complexion of the game.
Things changed instantly in the third period.
A keep-in at the offensive blue line by Carolina’s newest defenseman (more on him later) led to Aho finding Teuvo Teravainen for a one-time chance. Teravainen’s shot was stopped, but the puck bounced up in the air and somehow went off of the skate/stick of Ian Cole and into the net.
Well, okay.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 29, 2020
Teuvo Teravainen with a blast and a bounce. He gets the Hurricanes on the board and makes it a 2-1 game. Sebastian Aho with the primary assist, he extends his career-long point streak to 14 games.
Brady Skjei kept the zone and gets his first point as a Hurricane. pic.twitter.com/uZYsXch5vk
121 seconds later, Turbo scored again. Aho broke up a play in the defensive zone, and Carolina’s steadiest defenseman (more on him later, as well) grabbed the puck and sprung Teravainen for the rush chance.
The Carolina Hurricanes have entered the chat.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 29, 2020
Teuvo Teravainen scores his second goal in 121 seconds and has tied the game at 2-2 in the third period. Sebastian Aho with another assist, Jaccob Slavin carried it up ice and gets the primary assist. pic.twitter.com/zjv7hpNK1e
Teravainen’s two goals got him up to 15 on the season and got his team even on the scoreboard. The best part of it was that, earlier in the game, he played one of his greatest hits - passing the puck out of a grade-A scoring chance to a player (usually Aho) who has almost no chance of scoring.
He made up for what was a rare off night in the third period with two big goals.
That ‘70s Blue Line
If you’re on the Hurricanes and your number starts with a “7”, you had a good night last night.
Brady Skjei had an early hiccup in his debut against the Stars, but he got better as the game progressed and his second showing didn’t disappoint. He was flying again on Friday, and his first standout play came in the first period.
Brady Skjei goes blue line-to-blue line with the puck, drives down the wing and nearly sets up Nino Niederreiter for a goal. Pavel Francouz with a really good glove save. Skjei looking good again tonight. pic.twitter.com/7A7FXcjZoY— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 29, 2020
Skjei went end-to-end, skated through the Colorado defense, and set up Nino Niederreiter for a great scoring chance.
That wasn’t a one-off, by any means. With Haydn Fleury as his defensive partner, the big trade deadline acquisition showed off a lot of really intriguing facets of his game that many people likely didn’t know about prior to the trade. You can see why the Hurricanes gave up a first-round pick for this player.
He’s a 6-foot-3, 214-pound defenseman who can skate with anyone, isn’t afraid to carry the puck out of danger in the defensive zone and into the offensive zone, roams the offensive zone with a blend of confidence and competence, and has a skillset that caters itself very well to the way that the Hurricanes play.
I thought higher of the trade than many, but even I didn’t expect him to fit in the way he has. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that he’s actually been great on the penalty kill. His defense is the main red flag, but so far, so good.
Now he just has to keep it up and not do anything bad for ~4.5 seasons... Easy enough, right?
Let’s put a bow on this thing with Jaccob Slavin, who had a pretty remarkable night that likely won’t be remembered as such.
He had the primary assist on the game-tying goal, five takeaways to just one turnover, dominant possession numbers while facing the star-studded Avalanche first line, and he did all of that while shouldering a season-high 27:58 of ice time. He was instrumental in Carolina’s comeback bid.
And then he missed the net.
In the dying moments of the third period, with a sixth attacker on the ice after Girard gave the Avs a 3-2 lead, a loose puck bounced out in front of Francouz’s crease. Slavin swooped in and had an opportunity to break the heart of his hometown team again, just like he did in Denver earlier in the year.
He airmailed the shot despite there being a whole lot of open space. Martin Necas even threw his hands up in celebration, sure that Slavin had just tied the game.
This one could end up haunting the Hurricanes for a long time. Jaccob Slavin airmails the puck with a whole lot of net open. Canes still down 3-2 late in the third period. pic.twitter.com/RCbR3CzVM2— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 29, 2020
These games are all hugely important. These are playoff games for the Hurricanes. That means misses like the one Slavin had on Friday sting so much more than it would in an early-December game. Carolina’s in the middle of a jam-packed Eastern Conference playoff race, and they need every single point they can get.
A superb performance from Slavin ultimately hinged on where he put that shot. Most of the time, that puck goes in the net, but it didn’t last night. Puck luck is a cruel mistress.
So, that’s really the moral of the story here.
The Hurricanes were good against the Avalanche - really good at times. I’ve talked about almost exclusively good things here, and that was on purpose. They deserved two points or, at the very least, one point.
They got zero points.
The way they played can and should be a stepping stone for them. If they play that game every night, they’ll be fine (they’re still just two points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot, and they have three games in hand).
That’s the challenge, though - can they consistently play that way? Can this group of players, facing adversity in the form of integrating new guys, overcoming injuries to key contributors, and adjusting to expanded roles on the fly, manage to break through and hit their stride in the home stretch of a season where it’s playoffs or bust?
Maybe we’ll get a good indication of what the answer is when they hit the ice again...
Tonight, at the Bell Centre in Montreal.