After surrendering the game-tying goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Carolina Hurricanes secured two points with Sebastian Aho’s overtime winner that was set up by Martin Necas, who had a phenomenal game with two points and a highlight reel goal to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Thursday. The dynamic duo always seems to bring the magic together in overtime and Thursday night was no different.
Alex Nedeljkovic, playing in his first back-to-back in his NHL career, had another strong night in net and Dougie Hamilton extended his franchise record by a defenseman points streak to 13 with an assist on a late, third-period goal by Nino Niederreiter that gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead.
Hamilton is now tied with Toronto’s Auston Matthews for the longest point streak in the NHL this season. Matthews’ streak was from Jan. 24- Feb. 20.
Nedeljkovic ran his record to 8-2-2 on the season. His shutout streak ended at 87 minutes and three seconds after a Zach Werenski goal with 12:57 remaining in the second period.
The Hurricanes didn’t play their best hockey on Thursday night, but it is a sign of a great team when even on nights they aren’t their best, they can still come away with two points. After losing the first two games of the four-game series with the Blue Jackets in overtime at PNC Arena, the Hurricanes went on the road and secured all four available points to head home with six out of a possible eight points in the four games.
“It was a tough game for us overall,” Niederreiter said after the game. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to play, and everything was very choppy and took a lot of effort. It wasn’t very good, but we found a way to win which was huge,” he added.
Aho also talked about how Nedeljkovic made several key saves that kept the Hurricanes in the game.
“Sometimes when the team isn’t playing that well your goalie can bail you out and Ned for sure won this one for us,” he said.
Nedeljkovic made several saves throughout the game that we can now look back on and say were game saving. It is becoming a regular thing to say that Nedeljkovic made many great saves in a game, but tonight was no different.
Each time he is in net, Nedeljkovic makes the decision even harder for when Petr Mrazek returns from injury. It is a hot topic for sure, but as each game passes, Nedeljkovic has proven that he can be a NHL goalie on a night in and night on basis.
Werenski opened the scoring in the game after a scoreless first period with a power-play goal on a somewhat questionable hooking call on Hurricanes defenseman Jake Bean. Werenski grabbed the rebound off the boards after his centering pass to Kevin Stenlund missed the mark and bounced it off of Nedeljkovic to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead.
The Hurricanes didn’t let that deficit last long as Cedric Pacquette scored his second goal as a Hurricane and third of the season 46 seconds later. Steven Lorentz kept the puck in the zone and skated around the back of the net and passed to Brady Skjei who fired the puck towards the net. It deflected out to Pacquette, who fired it home.
With 2:44 remaining in the second period, Necas scored his seventh goal of the season on a wrap around shot on one knee that will be played in highlight reels for a while. Since March 1, Necas has tallied 13 points (5 goals).
Cam Atkinson tied the game up in the third period on a shot from a sharp angle that went past Nedeljkovic. With 4:18 to play, Jordan Staal won the faceoff in the Blue Jackets zone and the puck went to Hamilton who then passed to Jaccob Slavin. Slavin fired a near perfect pass to Niederreiter in front of the Blue Jackets net and tipped the puck past Joonas Korpisalo to give the Hurricanes the 3-2 lead.
With 2:29 to play Columbus called their timeout and pulled Korpisalo for the extra attacker. Warren Foegle had a chance to seal the game for the Hurricanes after he poked the puck away from Seth Jones at the Hurricanes blue line and took aim at the empty net. Jones pestered Foegle just enough that the puck was wide of the net and the Blue Jackets were able to regroup with under a minute to play.
Another fortuitous bounce for the Blue Jackets tied the game with 15 seconds remaining when Oliver Bjorkstrand was able to get the puck off the back boards and put it in the net after Atkinson kept it alive.
It was then time for the Necas and Aho show in overtime. Necas deflected the puck just inside his own zone and at first glance looked to have a clear breakaway opportunity. But Werenski was able to get back and deflect Necas’ shot just enough to disrupt what he wanted to do. Korpisalo couldn’t secure it though and Necas passed it to a streaking Aho who had an empty net in front of him and he put in home for the two points and a happy group heading back to Raleigh.
It was an effort that lacked in many areas throughout the night. The Blue Jackets had better jump and the Hurricanes made a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone that were uncharacteristic and led to several chances on the other end by Columbus.
But good teams find a way to win and that is what the Hurricanes did on Thursday night, They earned points 46 and 47 as they head into Saturday’s home contest against the division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, who sit at 50 points after a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Some say it was a coming out party of Necas, but for those of us who have followed him the last few years, we know what he is capable of and it is just that the rest of the hockey world gets to enjoy it now as well.