Thanks to a big first goal, a stellar performance in the net, and a dominant team performance, the Hurricanes got back in the win column and shut out the Blue Jackets.
Let’s talk about last night.
After 947 minutes of ice time over the course of 46 games, it finally happened... Brady Skjei scored his first goal with the Hurricanes.
BRADY SKJEI FIRST HURRICANES GOAL ALERT— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 22, 2021
Sebastian Aho took a big shot, and the rebound went all the way out to Skjei who fired home his first of the season. pic.twitter.com/mpVRjtYln6
His goal gave the Canes a 1-0 lead in the first period, and it ended up being the game-winning goal when the final horn sounded in their victory at Nationwide Arena.
This was a long time coming for Skjei, who had been hovering around the net and knocking on the door of the goal category for a while now. He’s hit posts, missed on big chances, been robbed by goalies, etc.
The stars finally aligned for Skjei last night, though, and on top of scoring his first goal with the Hurricanes, he actually snapped a 21-game point drought that stretched all the way back to February 7 in... Columbus.
Speaking of coincidences, the last time that Skjei scored a goal was on February 21, 2020, when he was still a member of the New York Rangers. That goal came against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Three days later, he got traded to the very same Carolina club.
He very nearly scored another goal just a few shifts later when he sent a short-side rocket off of the blocker-side post of Joonas Korpisalo.
It’s been far from a smooth ride for Skjei at times since he first put on a Hurricanes jersey, but hopefully, his first goal is the right kind of milestone to get him on track to being what the Canes need him to be. And to his credit, he has shown some very promising signs as of late in his play alongside Brett Pesce.
That duo has started playing some strong hockey, so Skjei’s first goal was bound to happen in short order. It’s great for him and the Canes that it happened in a must-win game last night. His tally was a tone-setter that got everyone in the game.
Another Win in the Bank for Ned
Alex Nedeljkovic had a quiet night on Monday as he only saw 19 shots from the Blue Jackets, but he made all those saves count en route to his second shutout in the NHL.
He even went out of his way to manufacture some action, which of course was nerve-wracking.
Last night was just another game in a long line of impressive outings for the rookie goalie. Nedeljkovic has put up a .947 save percentage to go with two shutouts over his last eight starts. The Canes are 6-1-1 in those starts.
Every game he plays seemingly strengthens his case for getting steady action for the foreseeable future, regardless of who is or isn’t healthy. He continues to play like one of the best netminders in hockey.
A Much-Needed Dominant Effort
The second period was one of Carolina’s best periods in weeks. From start to finish, they absolutely hammered Columbus all over the ice and constantly pushed the puck into the offensive zone.
We’ve seen over these teams’ meetings this year that controlling the pace and pushing play is a tough task for the Hurricanes. Last night, it clearly wasn’t as big of an issue. The Canes posted a 70% xGA in the second period and ended up scoring twice in the frame while defending and building on a 1-0 lead.
A big factor in that was the play of the Jordan Staal line. That trio, which includes Andrei Svechnikov and Jesper Fast, got caved in over their last several games, so they desperately needed one to go their way. Last night, the Canes controlled 63.64% of the shot attempts and 72.45% of the expected goals while Svechnikov was on the ice at 5-on-5, and his linemates weren’t very far behind.
It was a strong performance up and down the lineup through 40 minutes. The third period definitely shifted in Columbus’ favor as Carolina took their foot off the gas offensively and tried to lock things up, but with a 3-0 lead they effectively locked down their defensive zone while Nedeljkovic stood his ground when things broke down.
This was the kind of performance that the Canes desperately needed. It was a must-win game, and they knew it. This season, they’ve been great at halting their losing streaks before it turns into a problem. They aren’t letting things get away from them.