The Hurricanes started a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Lightning in dominant fashion Saturday night, besting the Stanley Cup Champions 4-0 behind Alex Nedeljkovic’s first career shutout and goals from Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Cedric Paquette and Andrei Svechnikov.
Paquette, Aho, Nedeljkovic and Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media after the win, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On the Canes’ defense tonight: I think we just competed really hard in our end. They had some shifts they were running around, but we did a pretty good job of keeping it to the outside. When we had to block a shot, we did. Probably the best thing was just limiting all the rush chances. I don’t think they had a bunch of rush chances, which is always good when you can. They have a high-skilled team. If you can eliminate those and stay out of the penalty box, that was another big key tonight.
On if the Canes are surprised at being in first place in the Central: I don’t know if it’s a surprise. We expect to win every night. We take it a day at a time and it’s just so early in the year here. It’s a surprise only because we went through that stretch where we missed a lot of guys. So we were able to fight through that. That’s probably the only surprising part of it. It’s early, and we’re doing OK.
On the team’s performance and if this is the level the team needs to be at: It’s a great test, because we’re playing the best. And you could see there was not a lot of room. Every inch was fought for out there. That’s what you have to be. In a way, earlier we said ‘We’ve got to play these guys four times in a row,’ but it’s a great test for us to see how it’s done. We see it there. They play it right. And we had to tonight to win. It wasn’t a 4-0 hockey game, but we were able to cash in on some of the chances we created and it was a good night all around.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: You’re just happy for the kid. Like I said, he’s been part of the organization for a long time and kind of paid his dues and waited his time. It was just nice to see that he looked good and he was ready to go. He needed to make some big saves tonight and he did. The guys played hard in front of him. We’re just happy for the kid.
On if Nedeljkovic will start the next game: I haven’t even thought about the next game. We need to take a little break. This is a grind. It feels like we’ve just kept playing. It doesn’t get any easier. The mental fatigue is what we have to really guard against here coming up, really this whole year now. And every team’s going to have to do it, it’s just we’re in that stretch right now. So I’m not sure what the lineup’s going to look like Monday.
On Cedric Paquette: Anytime a guy comes over, it takes time. It takes time to acclimate to your teammates, to the surroundings, to the system. And he’s getting better and better. Obviously you always like it when you see a guy contribute on the scoresheet. But against his old team, I think that’s special for him. And it was a big goal at the time. We know what he brings. He’s going to block shots, he’s going to play the gritty game. That’s something that you need.
On the Canes getting odd-man rushes and breakaways: I’d say we got fortunate a little bit on a couple bounces and some flip outs, things that I wouldn’t necessarily say are part of the game plan, but getting pucks out for sure against their D and making sure we had guys heading in that direction was definitely part of the plan. It wasn’t a 4-0 hockey game, but I think we deserved the two points tonight.
On Teuvo Teravainen’s injury: That one obviously happened last night. I’m hoping it’s not going to be too long, but it’s going to be a couple games for sure. I’ll probably have more information here in the next couple days, but I don’t think he’s going to be back any time soon.
On Jake Gardiner sitting out: We needed to get [Haydn Fleury] in there. You don’t want guys getting too rusty, because when we do need to call on them it’s going to be no good. So that was just a judgement call to just kind of get him some touches and get him back into game mode.
On his play in the past few games: I’m playing against top lines in this league, so I got to make sure that I stay above my guys and take care of the defense first. Don’t let them have any easy chances. It’s just working hard. It’s been a good couple of games, but I feel we still can be better, especially when we get chances, we have to bury them early.
On if he expected the strong start to the season: You don’t really think about it that much. You don’t have that many expectations. You just try to get better every day and one day at a time. Build your game and get better with your linemates and on the power play and PK. All the little details. You don’t really think about the big picture that much, but I knew we had a good team and a strong d-corp and depth among the forwards and two great goalies.
On his goal: It was a great job by [Svechnikov] and [McGinn] to make the defense commit the turnover. I saw Svech get the puck and I knew he was going to find me. I tried to beat the D and got a step on him. I got a good bounce too. It actually bounced over someone’s stick and went upstairs.
On Nedeljkovic’s shutout: He was great all night. He made big saves early to keep us in the game and it’s just a great thing to see that when one goalie goes down, that there’s two guys stepping up for the team. That makes us a good team. It’s huge for us and it was great to see.
On scoring against his former team: I think you couldn’t write a better script than that. It was only my fourth game here and it was against my old teammates, so it was nice to finally get one.
On settling into the team: I think they didn’t ask me to do too much, just to play my game. I think I’ve done that since I got here, and the team is going well, so it’s been nice.
On his linemates: I think it’s easy to play with them. We play a simple game. We go hard on the forecheck, we create turnovers and turn the puck back to our D. We crash the net every time. So it’s easy enough to play with them, and it’s been really nice.
On the moment as the clock ticked down for his first NHL shutout: I just wanted to keep the puck moving. Try not to let the clock stop. You’re just trying to stay focused and be ready for the next shot. Obviously, 4-0 with a minute left, they’re going to have to do a lot or something special in order to come back, but you’re just trying to play a full 60 minutes. That last minute still counts too.
On the fuel coming into the game: Just playing these guys is enough. At this level, it shouldn’t take much to get you going. You’ve got to be ready to play every night. They’re the defending champs and they play hard every night. They’re a good team. They are still right there in the standings and we’ve got a long way to go and a lot more games against them. Every time we can get two points against them, it’s huge.
On the desperation saves: You never plan [to lose your stick]. You never want that to happen. I was joking with our equipment manager during one of the TV timeouts to get me some glue so I could keep that thing glued to my hand, but it’s just in those situations it’s more desperation mode. I got caught behind the play on a few of those and I just tried doing whatever I could to make a save.
On the group in front of him: We were excellent tonight. We didn’t give them much of anything. Any odd-man rush that they had we always had guys hustling back to back pressure. [Necas] made a few great plays in the third period with his stick to deny a drop pass to Stamkos and another great one to deny a breakaway. Those were late in the game, but when we were still up 2-0, so those were two huge plays to keep us ahead. From start to finish we were playing our game and it showed. We got to them and got a few bounces our way and a few times they threw pucks on net from bad angles that bounced away from our net, so it’s always nice to get wins like that.