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About Last Night: Carolina’s penalty kill and depth topples Stars

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The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in the shootout, Sunday evening at PNC Arena. The game exhibited the team’s tenacity and grit, but also highlighted some areas that still need polishing.

Kaydee Gawlik

The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Dallas Stars for the second night in a row, 4-3 in the shootout Sunday night at PNC Arena. The game showcased a Carolina team still decimated by absences — seven in total — but that is still giving top teams reason to worry.

Taking a look at the game, the Hurricanes did a lot of things right. The penalty kill was outstanding, depth scoring chipped in and the team is all around playing like a cohesive unit despite the absences. However, not everything was peachy for the Canes.

Here are four thoughts from the game last night.

Penalty Obliterating

The Carolina Hurricanes are missing their best defensive defensemen, and four penalty killing regulars. In the three games without them, they have killed off 13 out of the 14 penalties they’ve taken and are arguably at a net 0 overall due to Brock McGinn’s shorthanded goal last night.

The hard work of the Hurricanes’ penalty killers has boosted them up to second overall in the NHL with a 91.3% success rate.

The Hurricanes thwarted all five of Dallas’ attempts last night, including a full 4-on-3 in overtime. Carolina allowed only seven power play shots to the Stars, but did not concede a single goal.

The expected names got big minutes: Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei — who each killed over seven and a half minutes of the 10 total minutes of shorthanded ice time — as well as Jordan Staal and McGinn.

But there also has been the full effort by newer faces on the kill like Martin Necas, whose speed can trouble the usual lone defenders, and Steven Lorentz, whose tenacity and effort exhibit the key skill set for Brind’Amour’s penalty killers.

If Carolina can get these results without key players against some of the leagues’ top power plays, then when those players return, the dominance of the Canes’ kill may grow further.

Spreading the Wealth

The Hurricanes can’t just rely on their top guns to win them games, they need their depth to chip in too.

With goals from Jordan Staal on the power play, Brock McGinn shorthanded and Nino Niederreiter’s late game-tying goal, that’s three goals outside of the expected superstars. These players won’t score every night, but every game they do is a huge boost to the team.

It’s also a promising sign to see three goals scored at three different scenarios.

The Hurricanes’ defense was also pounding on the door early as well as they are all looking to be the first member of the D corps to pot one this season. Dougie Hamilton was blasting rockets from the point — one of which resulted in Staal’s goal — and Haydn Fleury was inches away from scoring, twice. One he rang off the corner of the goal post and the other he nearly billiards in as overtime expired.

Jake Gardiner has also been very active, lacing a lot of seeing eye-shots from the point that have all been narrowly missing the net or deflections in front.

Very soon, we should be seeing a floodgate open in terms of defensive scoring.

Stepping Off the Gas

The first period of the game looked like the last three periods the Hurricanes played. The Hurricanes were outshooting the Stars 12-3, and were up 1-0 where it counted. The suppression was on and it seemed like another easy two points.

But that wasn’t the case. After whiffing on a few chances to increase the lead, the Hurricanes allowed Dallas to tie things up after a rebound chance couldn’t be cleaned up and Jamie Oleksiak swept it home.

The Canes retook the lead off of McGinn’s shorty, but again failed to keep the ball rolling. Then a sequence of lazy breakdowns nearly sunk the game for Carolina. The Hurricanes forfeited the lead again off of a Sebastian Aho turnover and Jake Bean miscue that led to a Stars 3-on-2 and an unmarked Andrew Cogliano ripped home a clean look on James Reimer.

And not soon after, Jamie Benn flew into the zone as no Carolina forward came back to help the defense and his wraparound attempt took an unfortunate bounce off of Reimer who had made the initial save on the post.

Carolina got their wake-up call after that and luckily had enough time to sneak in the tie and enough energy and effort to come away with the win.

Not every game will be perfect, but taking those breaths and making lazy mistakes in a game they haven’t taken full advantage of their opportunities in can be costly.

Responding to Adversity

The first Dallas series had been anything but pleasant for the Hurricanes with the losing not only its starting goaltender, but also Max McCormick in game one and fearing that they may have lost their captain after a blindside hit laid by Jamie Benn last night.

Even more deflating, Benn gets a primary assist on a goal moments after he comes out of the box for that hit.

But the Hurricanes are a resilient bunch. They respond well to adversity. They are missing five players due to COVID-19 protocol, yet they’ve beaten both of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists with 25% of the roster being filled out by AHL players.

In a game in which they were dominating, they gave up the lead late in the game off of two bad defensive breakdowns, but they kept fighting and managed to force overtime.

In overtime, they were whistled for a questionable call, but dug in and killed it off, nearly scoring off a rush the other way as it expired.

The team has proven that they aren’t the Hurricanes of old and while we may think we see shades of the past in the present, the evidence is more than enough to convince one otherwise.