Morgan Geekie’s first NHL callup was almost an afterthought, coming down the wire not long after the Carolina Hurricanes topped the New York Islanders in overtime yesterday. But with his family looking on at PPG Paints Arena, Geekie took center stage in his NHL debut, scoring twice to power the Hurricanes to a 6-2 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins that put Carolina back into a playoff spot and gave them two crucial points in the standings.
Geekie’s three-point night was the first for a Hurricanes or Whalers player in their NHL debut since Dan Bourbonnais scored three points in a 6-1 Hartford win over the original Winnipeg Jets on December 30, 1981. Justin Williams, who was not quite three months old on that date, also scored twice and led all Canes skaters with nine shot attempts, and despite surrendering the first goal for the seventh time in the past eight games, Carolina came out of the weekend with four points and a new lease on their playoff lives.
It was looking like One Of Those Games for the Hurricanes early on a shaky line change, when Hurricanes legend Patrick Marleau backhanded a weak shot that inexplicably beat Alex Nedeljkovic to give the Penguins the opening goal. But it was less than a minute later when Geekie won a faceoff and immediately headed to the front of the net, setting himself up to deflect in a centering pass from Jake Gardiner for his first NHL goal, the first time since Warren Foegele in 2018 that the Hurricanes had a player score in his first career game.
Discipline was a huge problem for the Hurricanes, who took four penalties in the first period on the way to seven for the game. The fourth of those penalties, a questionable high-sticking call to Jordan Martinook, gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead as Evgeni Malkin took advantage of a perfect Patrik Hornqvist screen in front of Nedeljkovic to wire a shot home from the top of the slot.
The Hurricanes did everything but score in the opening minutes of the second period, with Vincent Trocheck hitting the post with Tristan Jarry down and out three minutes into the second. But when Warren Foegele was sent to the box for tripping Evan Rodrigues five minutes in, the Hurricanes were reeling again. The Penguins had chance after chance, but Nedeljkovic stood tall, robbing Marcus Pettersson with the glove midway through the period.
Then, Geekie struck again. The third-round pick in the 2017 draft won a faceoff that ended up on the stick of Jaccob Slavin, and with Geekie screening Jarry, Slavin’s shot found its way through to tie the game. And if that wasn’t enough, Geekie also figured in on the go-ahead goal five minutes later.
Rodrigues had just fired a shorthanded chance off the post behind Nedeljkovic at the other end when he came back up the ice and was sent off for holding Sebastian Aho. Forty-five seconds later, Geekie again screened Jarry to allow Gardiner’s one-timer to get past the goalie. Given power-play time in the absence of Ryan Dzingel, Geekie certainly made the most of it.
The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead in the opening minutes of the third period, when Justin Williams somehow missed a wide-open net after Brock McGinn drew three defenders to him at the side of the net. But they kept the pressure on Jarry, taking advantage of a Penguins team that looked suddenly very fatigued, and eventually Williams cashed in for the two-goal lead, a redirection of a Haydn Fleury point shot that gave the old man his fourth goal in as many games.
Not satisfied with that, though, Williams wasn’t done. Out of a television timeout, Jordan Staal drove hard along the boards and centered a pass that bounced off Brian Dumoulin’s skate and right to Williams, who drove the net and was in the right place to give the Canes a three-goal lead.
But as it started, this game belonged to Geekie, who became the first player since in 1981 to post three points in his debut by scoring his second of the game 1:17 after Williams lit the lamp. Just like the other two plays in which he figured in the scoring, Geekie earned his reward by driving to the net and taking advantage of a snoozing Justin Schultz to tap home a rebound of a Jordan Martinook shot.
Nedeljkovic made 28 saves in recording his first win of the season and second of his career, and ten Hurricanes made the scoresheet, six of whom had at least two points - and none of them named Aho, Teuvo Teravainen or Andrei Svechnikov. None of those, though, had as memorable an afternoon as Morgan Geekie, who gave the Hurricanes an improbable lift back into a playoff spot for the first time in nearly two weeks.