Carolina had to battle through some pretty severe adversity, with six players on the COVID list and a couple more out injured. The Canes made the most of their shortened, inexperienced in a lot of places roster and pulled out a win, shooting down the Red Wings on Star Wars Night in PNC.
Nino Niederreiter led the way with two goals, while rookie Jack Drury scored his first goal in his first NHL game. Tony DeAngelo, in his return from COVID protocols, added a goal, while Vincent Trocheck made it 5 with an empty net.
Some thoughts on the mighty impressive win:
Never tell me the odds!
While the Canes were technically still the betting favorite heading into Thursday night’s meeting with the Red Wings, things were stacked pretty heavily against Carolina.
The Hurricanes were playing with just 16 skaters, two short, with three of those skaters being call-ups made Thursday afternoon to help quell the loss of six players on the COVID list (including some of the team’s best players in Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov).
And with a shortened roster and a few stars missing, the Hurricanes prevailed to beat the Red Wings 5-3.
“Nothing surprises me with this group,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “When you think it maybe it will be a little too tough, they find a way. Just a gritty effort up and down the lineup from pretty much everybody. It was one of those special wins.”
It would have been really, really easy for the Canes to fold in this game. Just 16 skaters, three of which were just called up and two of which were Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo playing for the first time in a few weeks, and it would have been a very forgivable loss.
But so far this season (and really the last few under Brind’Amour), that’s not been the Hurricanes’ mantra. Carolina has consistently had a high level of compete, and sometimes that’s what you need to win a hockey game.
“We competed from the get go,” Niederreiter said. “We stuck to our game plan. Obviously they got a couple of easy goals on us, but we knew we just had to stick to it and battle as hard as we can and play simple, and I think that’s why we got rewarded at the end.”
Already know you, that which you need
A big reason for the Hurricanes’ win Thursday night was the new guys, as the trio of Drury, Andrew Poturalski and Stefan Noesen came up from Chicago last minute and contributed to the win.
Drury scored his first career goal, while Poturalski secured his first career point. All three guys played and all three guys produced at least one high-danger chance, with Poturalski contributing on the power play and Drury playing on the penalty kill.
“They were huge,” Brind’Amour said. “Got to give management a lot of credit this offseason just making sure we had those guys down there. Guys that could play and had experience. I think that’s been huge, and I think it’s good draft picks. Good by management again recognizing the kind of players we need around here.”
It started early in the first period, with Poturalski making an important play on the power play to help open up the scoring. He collected a puck in the circle and rifled a dangerous shot on net, which eventually led to a score from Niederreiter to make it 1-0.
Then later in the first with the game tied 2-2, Drury got into space in the slot and fired a good shot on Alex Nedeljkovic. A heavy rebound came right back to the stick of Drury, and he slotted it home for his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
“That was incredible,” Drury said. “Really fun to get the win and obviously getting the goal was cool.”
Drury, Poturalski and Noesen coming up and making a difference isn’t necessarily a shock, and it isn’t the first time this year it’s happened that way for the Canes. When Pesce and DeAngelo went to the COVID protocol a few weeks ago (both returning Thursday night and playing quite well, with DeAngelo scoring), Jalen Chatfield and Maxime Lajoie came up and didn’t miss a beat, with Chatfield garnering consistent praise for his play.
“I think all of our players in Chicago are really good and getting to play with a couple of them tonight made it easy,” Drury said. “It felt seamless. I think the culture we have in Carolina blends down into Chicago, and I think we bring that same work ethic that they do up here and try to have the same mentality. That way whenever someone’s number is called, they’re ready.”
It’s certainly been something that has helped the Hurricanes survive the first parts of this spell of COVID, and it’s something that will likely need to continue as the team has to keep moving forward without some key players. But nonetheless, it’s something that says a lot about where the organization is at.
“Organizational depth,” Pesce said. “It speaks volumes to the scouting staff and front office. It’s amazing. You saw Jack scoring, and he was making things happen. [Poturalski] got his first NHL point. They’re not just playing and going through the motions, they’re contributing to that win. That’s exciting to see.”
Somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage shoot, fly boy
It’s hard enough to play without six regular starters (seven, if you include the injured Jordan Martinook). It’s even harder when two of those guys are Aho and Svechnikov.
With two of their leading scorers sidelined the Canes needed someone to step up offensively and shoulder the load, and Niederreiter was the man for the job. He finished the game with two goals, his first multi-goal game of the year.
He got the scoring started in the first period on the power play, positioning himself well on the side of the crease to smack in a rebound off a Poturalski blast deflected in front by Jesper Fast.
GIVE ME FUEL— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 17, 2021
GIVE ME FIRE
GIVE ME NINO NIEDERREITER pic.twitter.com/TnsDlWLqIJ
And while they count the same, Niederreiter’s second goal of the night was a bit more spectacular. Mere seconds into the final period with the game tied, Niederreiter carried the puck into the offensive zone and exposed an opening left by Nedeljkovic with a rocket.
Niederreiter was impressive throughout, finishing with five shots and the two goals. He stepped up in a spot where the Hurricanes needed somebody to step up, and it led to a really, really gritty victory.
“We were missing quite a few key players, but we knew coming into this game that the older guys had to step up and lead by example,” Niederreiter said. “I think that’s what we did. The younger guys followed us up, and I think it was a really gutsy win for us.”