Playing their third straight game without five key contributors Sunday night, the Hurricanes won their fourth straight game, topping Dallas 4-3 in the shootout.
The team saw several key players step up, chief among them Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter and James Reimer. That trio and head coach Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom after the game, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say.
On different guys stepping up: I hope we can rely on that next-man-up philosophy. Everyone has to contribute whether we have the regulars or not. That’s just the recipe for success that way. These three games, that’s pretty much what happened.
On the hit on Jordan Staal: I don’t know if it spurred us. Certainly, when he came back, it was a lot better for us. I didn’t really get a good look at the hit. It happened so fast. You’re so concerned when you see anybody go down, especially Jordo, because we know how valuable he is. It was a different game when he wasn’t in there.
On the penalty kill: That seems to be kind of the game now. Special teams are so important, because it’s so hard to score five on five. Everybody’s dialed in on how to defend, which is why I get so worked up on penalties that are iffy. Because it’s just a game changer. But, to your point, the penalty kill was great. [Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce], thankfully we were able to call a timeout because we had one, just to kind of give them a breather. But they probably didn’t. That was so huge, that whole kill, and the whole kill in general has been great. It’s just different guys having to figure it out. They’ve done well.
On Martin Necas on the penalty kill: It’s all talking about opportunity and what you do with it. He’s definitely opened my eyes to it. It’s something we talked about, using him. But you’ve got other guys too, you’ve got to make sure everyone has their role and how it fits. It’s just nice to know that you can count on other people when guys go down or whatever. It’s been nice, even if it’s a three-game window and we don’t use him for a little while, we know now that we can count on him. So that’s just another feather in his cap, really.
On officials being hard on Andrei Svechnikov: I just think in general, the younger guys, whether it be a faceoff circle, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt. You’ve got to earn that respect and earn that kind of trust with the referees over time on calls. I don’t think it’s Svech in general, I think it’s just kind of all young guys. That’s just kind of how it works.
On Steven Lorentz: He’s shown well. It depends how you look at that last one. He makes a great defensive play, but it’s his guy that got behind him. You’re kind of like, ‘OK, at least he was able to recover. There was another one that he knows he should have had the guy and gave up one. But he’s learning on the fly here at the NHL level. That’s super, super hard. If you watch him, even in these three games, he’s looked more comfortable as the game’s gone on. That’s pretty impressive for him. He’s one of those guys you can look to now to say ‘Hey, we can count on this guy.’ So he’s definitely elevated.
On the injuries and other factors the team has faced: This has definitely put a lot of stress on the old job here but when you have games like these last few, it kind of makes it a lot easier to deal with.
On how he felt on the back-to-back: Well, I should be rested after nine days off. Honestly, last night the guys played so well, limiting the Stars to only 11 shots, so my workload wasn’t as high as some nights. Having said that, I’ve played a lot of back-to-backs before facing 40 shots in both nights. It’s the reason you train hard in the summer for when you get put in scenarios like this, you can survive and try to thrive. I felt pretty good tonight.
On what it’s like in shootouts: It’s just a fine line of playing your reads and playing the guy honest. Obviously, you’re going against the other teams’ best shooters and so it’s always nerve racking when you’re going against the best, but it’s also fun. That’s what’s exciting about this game. A guy comes in and you just try to take some ice and try and read the play and let the puck tell you what it’s going to do.
On what’s making the penalty kill so good: I think it’s the hard work. Whoever is out there, they’re just working extremely hard. They’re digging in, and blocking shots and pressuring guys. It takes an incredible commitment to play that way on the PK and our guys, to a man, are just buying in and sacrificing. As a goalie, when you see your guys working so hard and blocking shots, it just gives you energy to try and come up big when you do get a chance.
On the penalty kill in overtime: On a 4-on-3, there’s a lot of ice out there and I think as a PK, you’re just trying to limit the most dangerous options and trying to take away second attempts. We did that really well in OT. It’s just an all-out battle and everyone’s just sacrificing, trying to do what they can, We pushed guys, the d-men out front were picking up sticks and trying to let me see the puck as best as they could. That was a big part of that 4-on-3.
On facing Jamie Benn to win the shootout: He’s one of the best players in the league and he’s got a ton of skill. He scored that third one too. You want to go against the best and that’s what’s so much fun about this game. Lucky for us, I was able to get something on it.
On his rebound control in overtime: You’re just trying to play your same way throughout the whole game and anytime you’re down or on the PK, you try to control them as best you can whether that’s in the corners or corralling them, but luckily in OT I was able to see a few and the puck was sticky. That was a nice way it played out.
On a new hero stepping up every game with so many regulars out: You need everybody. You hear [Brind’Amour] say that from the get-go. You need everyone throughout the lineup and not the same guys every night. It’s just not going to work like that. I thought our team battled really hard tonight. We had some big moments from key guys and just found a way to grind one out.
On the overtime opening faceoffs: Just to get the boys going, I have to win that one. We want to start with the puck and especially at 3-on-3. If you start with it, you’re less likely to be chasing the puck around the whole time. I was fortunate enough to win that one again and get [Sebastian Aho] out there.
On the feeling among the team: We’re very happy. Not content, but very happy with the way we’re playing. It’s our identity that we’ve wanted to build the last few years and it shows. We didn’t change our game with guys our or in and with all the stuff outside that’s been going on. The boys all throughout the lineup did a good job of playing our game and being relentless and being hard on the pucks and finding ways to win games. We’re fortunate enough to find the bounces, but that happens with a lot of hard work.
On the strong penalty kill: It’s obviously everybody. You need all four guys, with the goalie five guys, to really have a good PK. Picking the right spots to pressure, guiding the puck where you want it to go and then squishing it and finding ways to get it out when you find the opportunity to. Our D does a great job of reading plays and just putting pressure on times when the other team may not see it coming. Forcing them to have to make a really good play to get a good chance. That’s been our style. They did a really good job a few times of making four good passes to get a good chance that still didn’t connect, so we crossed our fingers on those ones. But our identity is to pressure, pressure, pressure and make them have to make a bunch of really good passes to get a good opportunity.
On Pesce and Skjei killing off the entire final overtime penalty: They got some iron lungs, those two.
On the hit by Jamie Benn: I didn’t love the hit. I wasn;t sure where the puck was and I don’t think it was anywhere near me. It went off my ass earlier — or butt I should say — and I didn’t know where the puck was. I got a good one though. It was a good stinger in the shoulder. Someone in the stands told me to go to the quiet room, so I did all the stuff I had to do, but I felt fine and passed all the stuff so I was able to get back out there and try to contribute to the win.
On his game-tying goal: It was tough to say. There were a lot of things going through my head. First of all, I had to get the puck out of the air from Pesce, then after that I knew I didn’t have a lot of speed going, so I knew I had to take that shot and kind of risk going far-side high. Lucky for me, it went in.
On winning despite missing players: It speaks for our group and our system and on the way we want to play. I think whenever someone is hurt, someone else has to come up and jump in and do the job right and that’s been clicking for us. We knew we had some guys out and we knew we still had to compete. If you compete, everything is possible.
On the feelings after seeing Staal go down after the hit from Benn: You never want to see anybody get hurt. We had a couple of guys go down in the first game against Dallas and those are always moments where you come together as a group. At the same time, you’ve got to play for them and once we knew Staal was going to come back, we knew we were going to be fine. He’s a big key to our team. He’s our leader and it’s great that he came back and played the way he did.