There are nights in an NHL season where you don’t have your A-game, and you need your star power and goaltending to pull out a victory. That was the case for the Hurricanes on Thursday night, as the Hurricanes rode a sterling game from Alex Nedeljkovic and big plays from their top forwards to a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Sebastian Aho scored the game winner in overtime on a pass from Martin Necas, who had a goal and an assist. Cedric Paquette and Nino Niederreiter also scored for Carolina.
Nedeljkovic, making consecutive starts for the first time this season, was flat-out phenomenal in net against the Jackets. He stopped 33 of 36 Columbus shots, and made multiple 10-bell saves to keep Carolina in the game, especially in the third period.
The Hurricanes wasted little time ending this one in overtime, as Necas was denied on a breakaway but kept control of the puck, and set up Aho in the dead slot, who made no mistake for the winner.
The dynamic duo does it again! pic.twitter.com/EESFEqJPWV— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) March 26, 2021
Late in a third period in which the Blue Jackets largely outplayed the Canes, Niederreiter, as he has so often this season, stepped up in the biggest moment with his 14th of the season, winning position in front and redirecting a pass from Jaccob Slavin home to make it 3-2 Canes with 4:18 to play.
Jaccob Slavin with a perfect set-up to Nino Niederreiter and the Hurricanes take a 3-2 lead late in Columbus!— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 26, 2021
Nino with his team-leading 14th goal of the season, Dougie Hamilton extends his point streak to 13 games. pic.twitter.com/XmdUjBSXp1
Dougie Hamilton picked up a secondary assist on Niederreiter’s goal to extend his personal point streak to 13 games, the longest in the NHL this season.
The game still had some drama left, however, as, after Warren Foegele badly missed an empty Columbus net, Oliver Bjorkstrand tied the game for Columbus with 15.1 seconds left in the game on the rebound of a shot that bounced off the back boards, sending it to overtime.
The Canes got off to a strong start at 5-on-5 in the first period and outshot Columbus 14-8 overall with a few good chances, but came up empty on two power-play opportunities, as the team certainly did not look like one that boasts the No. 1 man advantage in the league.
Both teams had excellent chances to start the second period, but Joonas Korpisalo stoned Jesper Fast, followed by Nedeljkovic making a flurry of saves against Columbus.
The Blue Jackets’ early second-period onslaught paid off 7:03 in, as a poor pinch by Dougie Hamilton led to a 3-on-1 from the Blue Jackets and Zach Werenski beat Nedeljkovic from a sharp angle to make it a 1-0 game. The goal snapped an 87:03 shutout streak for Nedeljkovic.
The Canes wasted almost no time tying it up, however, as just 46 seconds later, Paquette pounced on the rebound of Brady Skjei shot to tie the game at one.
With under three minutes left in the period, the Canes took the lead as, simply put, Martin Necas happened. Necas grabbed a puck at the blue line, zipped his way behind and around the net and beat Korpisalo with a wraparound goal from his knees that’s probably going to be shared a time or two in the next 24 hours.
Throughout the season, everyone around the Canes has talked about Necas having more confidence to use his talents to make skilled plays like that, and it’s on display on a nightly basis. He’s been on an absolute tear in March.
After his 2-point night in Columbus, Martin Necas has 5 goals and 13 points in 12 games since March 1.— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) March 26, 2021
The Canes killed off the remainder of a penalty to Warren Foegele for a dangerous elbow at the end of the second to start the third period, but Columbus tied the game shortly after on a tough sequence for the Canes.
Following a questionable hooking call against Jake Bean, Martin Necas nearly made it 3-1 with a shorthanded rush, but Joonas Korpisalo stopped him, and Columbus went the other way and tied it at two with a sharp-angle shot by Cam Atkinson that deflected in off Hamilton.
Nedeljkovic continued to make big stops after the Atkinson goal, stoning Eric Robinson from the dead slot and snaring Max Domi on a breakaway to keep it a 2-2 game and set the stage for the wild finish.
Alex Nedeljkovic flashes the glove on Max Domi. Huge save in a tie game. pic.twitter.com/pRa4l0kd16— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) March 26, 2021
With the victory Thursday, the Hurricanes picked up six of possible eight points in the four-game set with Columbus, and have now picked up at least a point in four straight games. Up next is a big showdown Saturday night with the Central Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.