And, of course, I’m talking about the long-awaited rematch between Jordan and Marc Staal!
It was a truly unique night of hockey in Raleigh. Fans were welcomed back into PNC Arena (at 15% capacity) for the first time since February 28, 2020, Rod Brind’Amour had a chance to hit 100 regular-season wins as an NHL head coach, and the actual big family story was Andrei Svechnikov and Evgeny Svechnikov finally going toe-to-toe in the NHL.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Canes got it done.
After a strong first few shifts in the offensive zone, Carolina’s 5-on-5 games started to fall asleep as the first period went on. Detroit’s first big chance came on a long breakaway opportunity for Filip Zadina, but Alex Nedlejkovic kept them off the board with a composed pad save.
Zadina vs. Nedeljkovic... Ned with a huge early save. pic.twitter.com/PbXWxL9MbE— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) March 5, 2021
That chance certainly woke up the Red Wings’ game, as Jeff Blashill’s bunch started to strike back with scoring opportunities and, eventually, the game’s first goal as Zadina got payback for his earlier missed opportunity. The young Czech forward snuck a shot under the blocker of Nedelkovic on a goal that he would likely want back.
Detroit didn’t have much time to build on the lead, though. Just 14 seconds later, Adam Erne went to the box and then seven seconds after that... Svech happened.
It was Andrei who broke through in the first period of the Svechnikov Bowl by way of his patented laser-beam wrist shot from the left circle over the glove of Jonathan Bernier.
Despite Carolina’s quick answer to the goal, Detroit outplayed them in their first period back in front of fans at PNC Arena. The Wings outpaced the Canes on the shot clock and in the scoring chances category, which led to a number of close calls deep in the Carolina zone.
Unfortunately for the Canes, the second period didn’t start off any better than the first ended. Jordan Staal took an “interference” penalty (or so it was called) mere moments into the frame. Carolina did great work killing off the penalty, but they were forced back into work three and a half minutes later when Brett Pesce slew-footed Robby Fabbri in front of the benches.
Brett Pesce with a blatant slew-foot on Robby Fabbri. A bad/dangerous play that led to the Wings taking a 2-1 lead on the power play. pic.twitter.com/B4znhCK2YS— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) March 5, 2021
On the ensuing power play, a blown coverage, a loose puck, and a goalie just off his near-side post led to the Red Wings taking a 2-1 lead. It was Zadina who, again, beat Ned. This time, by way of a well-placed shot on the glove side.
The Hurricanes were dealt an olive branch back into the game at 11:03 of the period when Evgeny Svechnikov got whistled for tripping. Carolina went on to maintain offensive zone puck possession for nearly two whole minutes as the top unit never left the ice. Bernier was there to shut down any quality chances, though, and the Detroit penalty kill didn’t break during the long sequence.
After that, the ice stayed tilted in the Canes’ direction at 5-on-5. They struggled mightily to move the puck up the ice, and Detroit did a great job of applying pressure on their breakouts and stifling any forward progress.
Late in the period, the Vincent Trocheck line finally put the puck into the Detroit zone, and it ended with a merciless snipe off the stick of Martin Necas to tie the game at two.
Yeah, nobody's gonna be saving that. pic.twitter.com/ZFtVaps1X2— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 5, 2021
That shot knotted the game up once again, but the story through 40 minutes was Carolina’s inability to penetrate Detroit’s defense and create offense. Nedeljkovic’s effort and the Canes’ skill were the lone things keeping the game where it was.
Carolina had an expected goal share of 41.66% at 5-on-5, which is terrible, but it’s even more terrible against one of the worst teams in the league.
Let’s just say that their xGF% improved a little bit in the third...
Rod Brind’Amour shuffled his lines, and a result of that was a trio of Svechnikov, Staal and Jesper Fast. And let me tell you, they got off to a... Fast start.
On the opening shift of the period, Svechnikov very nearly scored a beautiful breakaway goal, but he was not deterred after being stopped by Bernier. The Canes maintained possession, Svechnikov worked the puck across the ice to Hamilton, who blasted a slap shot directly into the shins of Fast. Luckily, the rebound bounced right back out to Staal, who ended his goal drought with a go-ahead goal at 45 seconds of the third period.
Two minutes later, on that line’s very next shift, they just went ahead and scored again.
Svechnikov and Staal combined to force a defensive zone turnover, and then Svech and Fast reloaded to create a short 2-on-2 rush. Svechnikov puck-handled his way around a stick and then slid a perfect pass to stick of Fast, who won his battle in front, to extend the Carolina lead to two goals.
Svech is happening.— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) March 5, 2021
Andrei Svechnikov slides a perfect pass to Jesper Fast to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 third-period lead. pic.twitter.com/a5y99ur93s
For the first time all night, the Canes truly controlled play for an extended period of time. The first half of the third period saw Carolina dominate Detroit and set the table for an opportunity to close the game out and extend their win streak to four games.
And that’s exactly how it panned out. The Hurricanes saved their best period for last, and Nino Niederreiter’s empty-net goal with 5:05 left on the clock (yes, they pulled Bernier that early) allowed the 2,924 fans in attendance to sit back and enjoy the final few minutes of hockey.
With their fourth straight win, the Canes improved to 16-6-1 on the season and took over in first place of the always-changing Central Division.
Carolina will get a very rare two off-days before their next game day on Sunday against the Florida Panthers.