It’s been a minute since the 2019-20 NHL season unexpectedly (and, at the time, unknowingly, came to a close). Over the next six weeks, we’ll be refreshing your memories with brief, month-by-month recaps of the regular season heading into the NHL’s return to play.
Month Record: 8-7-0
Top scorers: Andrei Svechnikov (6-11-17)
Sebastian Aho (10-6-16)
Teuvo Teravainen (5-11-16)
Dougie Hamilton (4-11-15)
There was no shortage of offensive fireworks for the Carolina Hurricanes in November. Six times the Canes scored four or more goals, and they were a perfect 6-0-0 in those games. The problem was the other nine games of the month, where they went just 2-7-0 while being outscored 30-17. It was a feast-or-famine month for the Hurricanes, who fell out of the top three in the Metro by the end of the month, only a point up on the final playoff spot in the East.
But you could be forgiven for thinking that everything was great in the opening game of the month. A defense-optional goalfest was the order of the day at PNC, as Sebastian Aho scored twice and Andrei Svechnikov extended a nascent goal streak to three games in a 7-3 win over the Red Wings that saw six goals scored in the second period alone.
But then the good time came to a screeching halt. That win over the Red Wings would be the Canes’ final victory for more than a week, as the New Jersey Devils halted the Canes’ momentum with a 5-3 win the next night at PNC.
It became even more bitter three nights later in Philadelphia, when the Hurricanes had outplayed the Flyers through two periods but surrendered three goals in the final twenty minute to fall 4-1. Worse, their two-game losing streak came just in time to face their nemesis Henrik Lundqvist as they returned home, and Lundqvist did to the Canes what he’s done so many times: committed larceny.
The Hurricanes put 22 shots on Lundqvist in the first period, including a sure goal by Eetu Luostarinen in his NHL debut that jumped his stick, but trailed 1-0. By the time the damage was done, the Hurricanes had fired 47 shots on goal, tying a season high - and yet it didn’t matter, as Lundqvist improved to 17-4 all time against Carolina when facing at least 30 shots in a 4-2 Rangers win.
Oh, and Adam Fox scored the Rangers’ fourth goal into the empty net, because of course he did.
The headaches continued with a listless 4-1 loss to Ottawa to extend the losing streak to four games and leave the Canes searching for answers. Returning home to finish off a home-and-home with the Senators on Veterans Day, the Hurricanes found their groove again, and a rematch with the Sens was just what the doctor ordered. For the first time, Svechnikov, Aho and Teravainen were paired together, and it was no coincidence that they were among fourteen skaters who got on the scoresheet in an 8-2 romp, led by (who else?) Joel Edmundson with three points.
Extra hockey was the order of the day as the Canes went on a three-game road swing, beginning with an overtime win over the Sabres that featured Jordan Staal’s 100th goal as a Hurricane and the team’s tenth straight win over Buffalo, extending a streak that began in 2016.
Another overtime win, this one over the Wild, extended the Hurricanes’ winning streak to three games, but this one came with some warning signals. While Svechnikov ended it with a goal 1:33 into the extra session, the Hurricanes’ bad habits were creeping back in, allowing Minnesota to tie the game after taking a 3-1 second period lead.
It looked like history would repeat itself in the final game of the trip. A 4-2 win in Chicago on November 19 capped off the three-game trip, the Hurricanes’ first-ever sweep of a trip of three or more games. Petr Mrazek stopped 30 shots as the Canes skated out to a 4-0 lead after twenty minutes, but a pair of Patrick Kane goals lit a fire under the Blackhawks that nearly saw them tie the game before Aho ended it with an empty-net goal.
Back at .500 for the month, the Hurricanes continued to tread water, with another loss to the Flyers followed by wins over the Panthers and Red Wings, the latter James Reimer’s first shutout as a Hurricane.
And then, before a Wednesday game at Madison Square Garden, a bombshell rocked the Hurricanes.
In a series of tweets on Monday, November 25, Akim Aliu had accused former Hurricanes coach Bill Peters of using racial slurs when Aliu played for the AHL Rockford IceHogs, coached by Peters, in 2007. The next day, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan accused Peters of kicking him on the bench during a game, and making physical contact with another player’s head. Current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, an assistant to Peters during his tenure with Carolina, corroborated the accusations during his pregame press conference in New York, saying “it for sure happened.”
Head Coach Rod Brind'Amour addresses the media ahead of tonight's game pic.twitter.com/SSOQLLMi7o— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 27, 2019
Back on the ice, it was more of the same, with Lundqvist making 41 saves as the Rangers snapped a brief winning streak. The day after Thanksgiving, the Nashville Predators dispatched the Hurricanes with ease in a 3-0 shutout win, but Reimer rode to the rescue again the next night in Tampa, putting on a clinic with save after save, including this beauty:
This SAVE pic.twitter.com/cBvOQygrKd— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 1, 2019
After holding the Lightning at bay through two periods, the offensive juggernaut roared to life in the third, outshooting the Hurricanes 16-2. Reimer and the defense did enough, though, to hang on for dear life, ending the month on an up note with a 3-2 win after a span of 30 days pockmarked with inconsistency.
Winning games 2-1 wasn’t going to be the Canes’ key to success, it had become blindingly obvious, and Brind’Amour faced a quandary: the Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen line was carrying the Hurricanes offensively, but at the expense of making the team too top-heavy and easy to pick apart elsewhere in the lineup. As the calendar turned to December, circumstances made the breakup of that pairing, so effective in so many ways, somewhat inevitable.