With a 5-2 win in Detroit Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes are on a three-game road winning streak and now hold the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 81 points through 68 games.
The Canes used a strong third period to skate past the Red Wings Tuesday night, as Morgan Geekie scored his third goal in his second career game, and Sebastian Aho brought his season goal total to 38 with two third-period goals. Carolina is through five games of a six-game road trip, and the Canes are now 3-1-1 over that stretch.
Welcome back, Petr Mrazek
Perhaps the only thing better for Hurricanes’ fans Tuesday than the 5-2 scoreline was seeing goalie Petr Mrazek back on the ice, as Carolina’s starting netminder played in his first game in two and a half weeks.
Mrazek looked pretty sharp, stopping 23 of 25 shots faced. Detroit’s first goal came after two deflections, and the second came off a good pass and a forward all alone in front of the crease. Mrazek also made some really solid saves early on in the game, and he looked fairly comfortable on the ice.
Having Mrazek back is huge for the Hurricanes, who were forced to deploy a duo of AHL goalies for the last couple of weeks after Mrazek and James Reimer got injured in the same game. The season is coming down to the wire, and having a starting NHL goalie in net can only help the Canes.
Mrazek’s performance was a welcome site for all Hurricanes’ fans, and he was really the only Petr any of us cared about last night.
Our Petr is the best Pet(e)r on TV tonight— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) March 11, 2020
A good week from Jake Gardiner
The Canes look to be getting hot again with three straight wins on the road, and defenseman Jake Gardiner has quietly played a huge role in helping get things going this week. After scoring a goal and picking up an assist in Sunday’s win over the Penguins, Gardiner put together a great three-assist game to help lift the Canes past the Red Wings.
Gardiner assisted Morgan Geekie’s game-opening goal, making a strong pass up the ice to spring a good passing sequence between Geekie and Warren Foegele to set up the shot.
Sooooo Morgan Geekie is good pic.twitter.com/mbY4RyDvSX— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) March 11, 2020
Gardiner picked up assist number two on Carolina’s second goal, blasting a shot from the point on the power play that found its way past Jonathan Bernier thanks to great net-front presence from Nino Niederreiter.
Nino Niederreiter goes to the net and gets a bounce. Jake Gardiner's point shot deflects off of Nino and in. Other assist to Vincent Trocheck (first assist as a Hurricane). A power play goal gives the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/J9OgAKSX69— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) March 11, 2020
With his third assist of the night, Gardiner decided to get a little more fancy with things, laying off a no-look pass to Aho to set up Carolina’s final goal of the night.
Jake Gardiner's just having fun with it.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) March 11, 2020
A no-look pass to Sebastian Aho for a power play goal. Gardiner has 3 points tonight and 5 points over his last 2 games. Aho has 2 goals tonight. The Hurricanes are up 5-2 in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/1BdI02ezIN
Gardiner is playing some good hockey on both ends, but his point-scoring ability as a defenseman has been much more on display as of late. He has as many points in his last two games as he did in his first 17 as a Hurricane, and he has 16 of his 24 points on the season since the start of 2020.
Thanks for coming back, Justin Williams
It’s sometimes easy to lack an edge in a game that you are supposed to win, and the Canes found themselves tied at 2-2 after two periods against the worst team in the league.
Enter Justin Williams, who lives and breathes for clutch goals. Williams scored the game winner early in the third period, sparking a three-goal period for the Canes that resulted in a scoresheet suggesting a much more dominant performance than Carolina put up in the first two periods.
A great passing play from Aho to Andrei Svechnikov to Williams set up the goal, as Williams slotted a great shot past Bernier to give the Hurricanes a lead that they would never give up.
Sebastian Aho to Andrei Svechnikov to Justin Williams. Williams has goals in 5 straight games and the Hurricanes take a 3-2 lead in the third period in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/GZxD3MeDs4— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) March 11, 2020
Williams is on a five-game goal streak during perhaps the Canes’ most important stretch of the season, and he’s making a huge difference since joining the team midway through the year. With a clutch goal Tuesday and a clutch stretch of games over the last week, Williams is showing that he still has some left in his tank.
The Carolina Hurricanes, particularly Aho, have had a knack of scoring shorthanded this season. With Aho’s shorthanded tally in the third period Tuesday, the Canes now have 10 goals down a man this year. That’s tied for the second most in the NHL behind the Ottawa Senators, who have a staggering 15 (the NHL record for one season is 36, set by the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers. Wayne Gretzky had 12 of those).
Aho has been especially good at finding the net shorthanded, as his goal Tuesday was his fourth of the season. That’s tied for the most in the NHL this year, and he also has the most in the league dating back to the start of last season. With nine shorthanded goals in his short career, Aho is already up to fourth in franchise history.
His shorty on Tuesday was made possible by a phenomenal pass from Teuvo Teravainen, one of those connections between the two Finnish forwards that just makes you shake your head.
Teuvo Teravainen hits Sebastian Aho for a shorthanded breakaway goal.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) March 11, 2020
I have absolutely no idea how he made that pass. The only explanation - it's Teravainen and Aho.
4-2 Hurricanes in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/zB2xjogsL1
Finding success in consistently scoring shorthanded goals may be a mixture of luck and skill, but it’s something the Hurricanes will definitely take.
The Hurricanes have won three straight on the road after dropping four in a row, and it was much needed in a very tight playoff race. Carolina now holds the Eastern Conference’s top wild card spot, tied on points with the Blue Jackets right behind. The Canes do, however, have two games in hand on Columbus, so there is somewhat of a lead for Carolina in that spot.
The Canes have a great opportunity to make it four in a row Thursday night, as they wrap up the long road trip in New Jersey against the Devils.