Playing their biggest game of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes came up with one of their best third periods of the season, scoring four unanswered in the final 20 minutes to win after trailing through two for the first time in five tries this season in a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
The Canes picked up two huge points in the standings against the current Central Division leaders thanks to two goals, including the game winner, from Jordan Staal, power-play goals from Vincent Trocheck and Dougie Hamilton three assists from Sebastian Aho and a goal from Jesper Fast.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Hurricanes were 0-4-0 when trailing through two periods, and the Panthers were 18-0-1 when leading after two.
Making his second start since returning from a 66-day absence, Petr Mrazek was excellent in net for the Hurricanes, stopping 34 of 36 shots and stopping several grade-A chances, with nothing to fault him for on either Florida goal.
Carolina entered the third period of its biggest game of the season trailing 2-1, and came out with exactly the energy it needed to, scoring twice in the first 8:52 of the final frame to take a lead it would not relinquish.
Following a late second-period penalty to Florida, the Canes took 1:17 of power play time into the third period, and wasted little time tying the game up Hamilton’s wrister from the point found the back of the net. The goal was originally credited to Trocheck but later changed to Hamilton.
Vincent Trocheck loves playing against the Panthers, apparently pic.twitter.com/GG9zz9UXvn— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) April 7, 2021
Carolina took its first lead of the night with 8:52 to play as Jordan Staal leaked a shot off the rush through Sergei Bobrovsky to make it 3-2.
The Canes wrapped up their four-goal third period with two empty netters in the last two minutes from Staal and Fast. Staal’s was particularly impressive as he muscled his way through two defenders for a shot at the empty net.
The first period had a very back-and-forth, quick pace, with the Canes and Panthers trading chances, including partial breakaways for Jordan Martinook and Warren Foegele that Bobrovsky stopped.
After Nino Niederreiter hit the side of the net in the offensive zone, the Panthers came the other way and Aleksander Barkov swept a rebound past Mrazek on the backhand to make it a 1-0 game.
For Mrazek, making his second start after a 66-day absence, the goal ended a shutout streak of 135:50, as Mrazek had started the season with shutouts in three of four full games played.
The Canes came inches from tying it on a power play with four minutes and chance left in the opening frame, but Dougie Hamilton hammered a shot off the goal post.
Carolina continued to have its chances early in the second period, including a wide open net for Steven Lorentz off a rebound opportunity, but his backhand try went wide. Carolina again came inches from tying it on a pretty passing sequence between the top line of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Jesper Fast, but Bobrvosky exploded across to make a spectacular pad stop on a point-blank chance for Fast and keep the Panthers up 1-0.
The Canes thought they had tied it up with a goal for Aho with 5:26 remaining, but the whistle was blown before the puck crossed the line as Wes McCauley lost sight of the puck, despite it never being close to covered by Bobrovsky.
Sebastian Aho scores, but Wes McCauley (behind the net) blew the play dead because he thought Sergei Bobrovsky covered the puck. Brutal break... pic.twitter.com/CcW1U0XbrH— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) April 7, 2021
On a power play late in the second, the Canes finally dented the scoresheet and tied the game, as Trocheck crashed the net and powered a puck past Bobrovsky. The goal was reviewed to see if Trocheck batted it in with his hand, but it stood. Trocheck has now recorded at least a point in five straight games since returning from injury and 11 straight overall, with six goals and 15 points over that span. He also has scored in all five games against his former team this season.
The tie was very short-lived, however, as Barkov scored his second of the game on a one-timer from the left circle just 27 seconds later on a defensive breakdown for the Hurricanes before the Canes responded with their big third.
With the win, and Tampa Bay’s loss to Columbus, the Canes jump the Bolts for second in the division with a game in hand. Carolina will have a chance to jump into first place with a win over Florida Thursday, as the team now trails the Panthers by a single point with two games in hand.