The Carolina Hurricanes knew they didn’t play like they should have in Monday night’s overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they made sure to put in a complete effort on Tuesday night in the final regular season matchup between the two teams as the Hurricanes came away with the 4-1 victory.
It was another physical game that saw Jordan Martinook drop the gloves with Tampa’s Barclay Goodrow on the ensuing faceoff after the Hurricanes’ first goal of the game by Nino Niederreiter. The Canes matched the Lightning’s physicality and more throughout the game.
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us,” Niederreiter said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s a tough game. There’s a lot of hits and battles all over the place. There’s a couple fights. It was definitely very physical.”
It was an all-around strong effort from the Hurricanes, who remained in first place in the Central Division with the win.
Let’s talk about last night.
Fourth line magic
Steven Lorentz scored a goal, Warren Foegle continued to fly around the ice, Morgan Geekie set up Lorentz’s goal with a great pass and Jordan Martinook fired his team up with the second period fight with Goodrow. When you think about the playoffs and what you want to see, getting an effort from the bottom-six players like the Hurricanes did tonight is at the top of the list.
Foegele has been buzzing for the last few games, and even though it won’t show up on the stat sheet, he has been an integral part in the team’s success lately.
Lorentz scored his second goal of the season on a great pass from Geekie who battled along the boards with Cedric Paquette to keep the puck in the zone.
Ned doing Ned things
Alex Nedeljkovic continues to impress each time he is in the starter’s crease and Tuesday night was no different. Nedeljkovic kept the Lightning from cutting into the Hurricanes’ lead with several stand on his head saves.
It was Ned’s 11th win of the season in 17 starts and he saved 26 of 27 Tampa shots.
As the Hurricanes continue to rotate three goalies, it was nice to see Nedeljkovic continue to look sharp even with more days off in between starts. His play in net tonight was stellar, frustrating the Lightning players all night.
Captain answers the bell
Jordan Staal tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot from the point 25 seconds after the Niederreiter goal to give the Canes a 2-0 lead in the second period. Staal was pestered by Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde in front, taking several shots from Gourde who was focused on Staal and not the puck, and Staal stayed the course and tipped the Hamilton shot in for the two-goal lead.
Staal also had five hits on the night, making sure that he led by example in the physicality department. It was another showing of why Staal is such a great leader. He knew what they needed to bring to the ice on Tuesday to come away with a win and made sure he contributed as well.
After the game Lorentz spoke about what it meant to see that from the Canes captain.
“That’s exactly what a captain does. That’s textbook,” Lorentz said. “Jordo’s a guy that leads by example. He’s not the most talkative guy but he could have turned around and punched him in the head after taking about three to four cross-checks like that, but he kept his cool and he let Gourde kind of hang off of him and take those shots.”
Skjei injured, possible concussion
Brady Skjei had been playing some of his best hockey of the season lately, but unfortunately he left Tuesday’s game after a hit from behind by Tampa’s Blake Coleman that went uncalled. The team officially announced him out for the game with an upper-body injury, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour mentioned after the game it is a possible concussion.
“He got hit from behind in the first period and tried to play through it, Brind’Amour said. “It was a hit from behind. I can tell you that right now. I’ve looked at it 10 times. The numbers are turned, 10 feet, it’s above the goal line when it gets run and finished, hard check into him. But that’s a hit from behind. So I know nothing’s going to happen, but we’ve got a guy now that might have a concussion for it. So I’m not happy about that.”
Four big points on the line starting Thursday
As if the past two games didn’t have a strong playoff vibe to them, the Canes stay in Florida to take on the Florida Panthers in two critical games beginning Thursday. After Tuesday night’s games the Hurricanes and Panthers are tied at the top of the standings at 65 points each, but the Hurricanes still have two games in hand over the Panthers.
Tampa Bay slipped to three points back of both teams at 62 points and the Canes still have a game in hand over them. So needless to say the Hurricanes could be sitting pretty with a sweep over the Cats on Thursday and Saturday.