The Hurricanes had a lot to celebrate before the puck even dropped for Tuesday night’s game in Dallas. Teuvo Teravainen made his return to the lineup for the first time since March 4 after missing 26 straight games with concussion symptoms.
He played 16:32 alongside Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov in his return.
“He’s been through a long year,” said Jordan Staal. “It’s one thing to have a concussion, I can’t imagine one during the pandemic. I’ve been through them. It’s not fun. It’s not a fun injury. You just want to get back out there. It was awesome seeing him out there. He’s only going to get better. And he looked good already tonight. It was good. All the boys were happy to see him out there.”
Then, of course, there was the game itself, with Aho, Svechnikov and Staal each posting a three-point game in a 5-1 win to cap off the Hurricanes’ six-game road trip.
Let’s talk about last night.
A quick start
Perhaps they were fired up by Teravainen’s return. Perhaps they were motivated by the need to be better after a lackluster first period in Monday night’s loss. But the Canes roared out of the gate in this one and played an excellent first 20 minutes.
The Canes were on “their game” from the drop of the puck, playing with pace and generating chances. They were rewarded about seven minutes into the opening frame, as, in a bit of a rarity, the Canes got the ball rolling with their first power play of the night.
Following some excellent puck movement, Jordan Staal pounced on the rebound of a Sebastian Aho shot for his sixth power-play goal of the season, which tied his career high.
The Canes barely had to wait a minute to double their lead with Aho’s 21st of the season.
It ended up being one of Carolina’s best periods in some time and a great start to the game, as the Hurricanes flipped the script from Monday’s overtime loss and took a 2-0 lead to the locker room.
“We had some more jump today,” Staal said. “Obviously last game we looked a little sluggish, for whatever reason. Today was different than the other one. We got to the game that we wanted to play. Everybody was buying in. Everybody was moving the feet and making the right plays, the strong plays. It obviously turned into some good stuff in the first period.”
Follow the leader
Staal’s first-period power-play goal was his first of two on the night, as he once again potted a rebound early in the second to put his team up 3-0. It was Staal’s seventh power-play goal of the season, which sets a new career high for the captain. He capped off his three-point night with a beautiful pass to Nino Niederreiter on the Canes’ fifth goal.
It’s been talked about over and over, but it bears repeating: The Canes’ captain has simply been on another level this season. He’s been, as usual, an elite two-way player capable of playing a hard-nosed game and shutting down the opposition’s top players.
But he’s now capitalizing on his chances, and has 16 goals on the season. His play this year has certainly been worthy of Selke Trophy love, and he’s got a high profile campaigner in that regard.
J. Staal for Selke— Justin Williams (@JustinWilliams) April 28, 2021
“I’ve been saying it every time that you guys ask me about it,” Aho said. “He’s literally doing that every night. Yeah, he scored today a couple goals, but I think his effort level and commitment and the way he grinds out there, it’s every night. He never changes. It’s just effort. Obviously it’s very nice to see him score, but there’s a lot of things. He’s our captain. He’s a successful player and has spent a long time in this league.”
Special teams get it done
After a rough night on Monday, the Hurricanes’ power play was on it Tuesday, scoring twice in three opportunities. The penalty kill locked down the Stars, killing all three Dallas power plays and only allowing three Dallas shots on the power play.
The power play got both its goals from the first unit, but the second unit generated plenty with Teravainen’s return. If the Canes can keep getting this kind of production from their top unit, and Teravainen can give them a truly dangerous second unit, they’ll have a truly deadly power play heading into the postseason.
“It’s every night with the special teams, really,” Aho said. “They are key in every game. Getting two goals and not letting any on the PK is going to give us a really good chance to win the hockey game. We try to gain some confidence from those goals. But then again, if we don’t score we want to learn and try new plays and just getting better all the time. It’s been a big role in the last two.”
“Next man up” has been a very real element for the Canes this season. With regular forwards Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Jesper Fast still out, Carolina again called upon McCormick, and he once again answered the bell, giving the team the its first of two insurance markers in the third period as he finished off a slick feed from Morgan Geekie.
After scoring his first goal since November 2018 Monday, McCormick now has a two-game streak, and Geekie has three assists in two games, as the Canes continue to get contributions from up and down the lineup.
“Especially tonight, [Morgan Geekie] made a couple nice plays. [Max McCormick] getting a couple goals here in two straight games. You get contributions there, that’s huge. Obviously last night, we needed those goals. Tonight, the game was a little different story, but it kind of put the game away. That’s a big goal. If we want to be successful, we need everyone to contribute.”
A strong trip
With the win, the Canes extended their point streak to eight games. They picked up at least one point in every game of the trip, and finished it 3-0-3 to grab nine of 12 points despite playing minus several lineup regulars over the last few games, as this team continues to find a way to get results night in and night out.
“We just battle for each other,” Svechnikov said. “It’s huge. Like I said, all four lines can score right now. That’s huge. We’ve just got to keep going, keep battling. Hopefully we stay healthy.”
The Canes will now return home for a five-game home stand, with a three-point lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning and two-point lead (with two games in hand) on the Florida Panthers for first place in the Central Division.