The Hurricanes survived a sluggish (in the extreme) start against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, but still did not have enough to win, falling 4-2 in their first regulation loss on home ice of the season.
Canes survive horrible first, but late mistake costs them
Saturday’s 4-0 win over Tampa was a clinic for how dominant the Canes can be when they’re on their game. The first period Monday was the polar opposite. The Lightning owned the early stages of Monday’s game, dominating shots, chances, puck possession and any other metric you can think of through the first 10 minutes and change.
But the Canes came through it without being punished on the scoreboard, largely thanks to an excellent start from James Reimer. The Canes’ netminder has been a little shaky lately, particularly early in games. If he wasn’t on his A-game to start this one, it might have been over after 10 minutes.
At one point, Tampa was outshooting Carolina 10-1, but Reimer made multiple grade-A stops, including a save-of-the-year candidate.
Optimus Reim is feelin' it early. pic.twitter.com/shXiXt9SDi— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 23, 2021
This puck did not go in the net. pic.twitter.com/742rb1LpTf— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) February 23, 2021
“We knew they were going to come out a little bit different than they did the night before,” said Jake Bean. “It may have looked like we weathered it, but [Reimer] took most of the brunt there. We didn’t come out the way we needed to, especially with what we knew they were going to come with. We got lucky in the first to come out of it. We just need to be better.
Reimer’s heroics even allowed the Canes to take a 1-0 lead to the intermission. However, the team knew it was extremely fortunate to be up after one, and karma caught up with the Canes as Tampa Bay outscored them 4-1 the rest of the way, including two unanswered in the third period.
The Canes played better but still made too many mistakes, including a defensive zone turnover by Brady Skjei on Ondrej Palat’s game-winning goal. Carolina peppered Andrei Vasilevskiy with 17 third-period shots, but couldn’t find the equalizer. While the team found a way to stay in the game when it wasn’t at its best, the Canes didn’t deserve to win, and they didn’t.
“We tried to prepare for it, but obviously we weren’t’ ready to go from the start,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “You’ve got to give their team credit, that’s the Stanley Cup champs. They took it to us in the first period and we were really fortunate to be ahead. But I give my guys a lot of credit, because they realized it as a group. I think from that point on, the second and third period, we were certainly right there with them, if not maybe even better. We certainly had the bulk of the chances in the third. But we probably got what we deserved with the start. You can’t play a 40-minute game in the NHL, and you certainly can’t play it against the best team in the NHL.”
Jesper Fast’s big night
There were some bright spots for the Canes, chief among them the first two goals in a Hurricanes uniform for Jesper Fast.
The past few games, Jesper Fast has been used on the power play and has been great making plays in traffic and along the goal line. He was rewarded twice in this one, pouncing on the rebound of a Martin Necas shot and cashing in on the tail of a power play on the first one.
JESPER FAST'S FIRST HURRICANES GOAL— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 23, 2021
Martin Necas threw the puck on net, and Fast was there to clean up the rebound and give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead over the Lightning. pic.twitter.com/IHypOPTGlp
Fast again finished a second chance, this time with an official power-play goal, knocking in the rebound of a Brett Pesce shot late in a second period that had seen Tampa Bay continue to outplay the Canes and take a 2-1 lead before Fast’s goal, sending the team to the intermission tied.
Fast has been making an impact lately with his net-front play and ability to be used on both special teams units, and it’s easy to see why he was a player the Canes wanted to add in free agency.
“Of course you want to have a win when you score a goal,” Fast said. “Of course getting the first one, it’s always good to get on the scoresheet. I am trying to focus on playing the right way, and when you play good usually the goals and points come. I feel like I’m starting to get my game where I want it to be. That’s usually when you get some success.”
Jake Bean showing he belongs
Coming into the season, the Canes knew they had to get Bean, a 2016 first rounder who’s proven everything there is to prove at the lower levels, some more games to evaluate him. They’ve done that in the form of a five-game stint with others (so far, Haydn Fleury and Jake Gardiner) serving as healthy scratches.
Bean’s given the team absolutely no reason, and really no choice, to take him out of the lineup. He’s shown his ability to skate the puck up the ice and make plays in the offensive zone, setting up his teammates for scoring opportunities.
Bean has five assists in those five games, including a secondary assist on Fast’s first goal in which he made a good play the blue line to keep the zone and set up Martin Necas’ shot that led to Fast’s rebound goal.
Bean led the team with seven shots on goal against Tampa, and continued to show his propensity to generate offense as he gains confidence and comfortability at the NHL level.
“I always want to get as much as I can towards the net,” Bean said. “Tonight, I got some pucks where I was able to make some moves and get pucks to the net. I’m always looking to generate offense as best I can, and tonight it fell in my hands pretty nicely.”