Thanks to the heroics of Alex Nedeljkovic (game-winning stretch pass) Dougie Hamilton (game-winning goal), Jaccob Slavin and others, the Hurricanes came up with a big 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday to extend their point streak to 10 games.
Nedeljkovic, Hamilton, Slavin and Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media after the win, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On Jaccob Slavin’s play: He’s great. He’s phenomenal. And then overtime too, the same thing. He has shifts where he just gets out there, goes all the way in for a rush but is still able to get back and stop their chance. He’s an incredible player, and we’re just so lucky to have him.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: He’s been making the solid saves and then the awareness. That’s really what it is, it’s to have the awareness of what’s going on in that play, seeing it go and Dougie’s gone. We don’t want a whistle there. It’s just a heads-up play. So he’s been great, and he was really one of the best players on the ice tonight.
On the President’s Trophy: I don’t know how much that trophy matters. It’s probably the most irrelevant trophy out there. You’re not playing for that. Now does it have some sort of impact? Maybe, I guess at some point. But that’s not what we’re trying to get. If it falls in our laps because we play well in the last five games, great. We want to get first in the division, that’s the thing that’s obviously most important and that’s what we’ll try to do.
On the line of Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov: They were great. That was the best line on the ice. They probably deserved a few more chances there. I think it’s more [Teravainen] and just that skill set that he brings. When the other two are working that, Svech and Aho were working hard tonight, every shift they were really second and third efforts, just keeping pucks alive. When they’re doing that, they’re tough to contain.
On Dougie Hamilton going to Nedeljkovic after his game-winner: That’s just the recognition. Everybody in the building knew that was just a great play by the goalie. Dougie, I can’t say enough about him either, he finished it. We had a couple of other chances before and didn’t finish it. Dougie doesn’t miss. It’s just the recognition. He knew if it wasn’t for Ned making that pass he doesn’t get the breakaway.
On Alex Nedeljkovic and if he’s surprised that’s his first assist: I’m not surprised. He’s played I don’t know how many games, and it’s very hard to get an assist as a goalie. But the way he plays the puck, it’s unbelievable. If he can keep going here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score a goal soon too.
On the President’s Trophy: Obviously, it’s what you want to do. I think you want to try to win that. It’s not the end goal, but trying to win every game, I don’t think you go out there thinking ‘We want to win the President’s Trophy.’ We want to win the next game and the next game and the next game. I think I won it in my second year, and I’ve got the trophy at home. I think it’s pretty cool. So hopefully we can keep going and get another one of those.
On the 5-on-3 penalty kill: It was unreal. I think those guys are fearless. It’s pretty impressive to watch. The whole bench sees it and respects that so much. So it’s a huge boost for us. That was a big moment for us to kill that in the game, and so fearless for them to basically play goalie, put themselves in front of those pucks and they did a great job.
On Columbus not being an easy game: I mean, I can say it now, I guess it’s eight games against Columbus right there. So I think the bottom teams in our division are hard-working teams, hard games to play. They’re not easy games where it’s high scoring and stuff. Those teams that aren’t in the playoffs, I think all the games in our division have kind of been that way. We’ve been in a lot of close games. A lot of the what we call grind games. We really haven’t had too many easy games. We expected that from them today, we knew that they had some close games in their last couple games even without a lot of their guys and they played well tonight again.
On the celebration after his goal: There was going to be one, I’m probably glad I didn’t do it, it went through my head. I thought of Ned right away. I would have another good one, but somebody beat me to Ned. So it would have been fun to be the first one to Ned and we would have had something pretty special there, but it’s OK. I’ll take the goal.
On his pass in overtime: It can’t get much better than that, besides scoring yourself. It’s great. It’s something I enjoy doing. I feel like it makes our D’s lives a lot easier. We spend less time in our own end. I think they did a good job of not giving me a lot of opportunities to play the puck tonight, so it was since to get one there in overtime when things are more open and we capitalized on it.
On following up his engagement yesterday with the win: It’s been exciting. Yesterday was a great day and I’m looking forward to the rest of my life with the love of my life, and getting the win tonight makes it even more special.
On if he has always liked aggressively playing the puck: I’ve always liked doing it. The guys I watched growing up - Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco, Ron Hextall - you can’t get much better than those guys. Brodeur had two goals, Hextall had two goals. Those were the right guys to watch. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at not being so aggressive with it. I’ve been more tame. It makes guys’ lives a lot easier when we get pucks out of our own end and they’re not getting hit and we’re getting pucks out.
On if he knew where Hamilton was when he made that stretch pass: I had a pretty good idea where he was. I didn’t know it was Dougie, but I could see how that rush played out. Their guy came in and stopped in the middle. We collided in the slot there with him, things got a little messed up. The puck found its way to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I peeked up and saw a red jersey behind their two guys and thought I could at least make it a race (for the puck). I didn’t get a lot on it, but Dougie was there and made a great play to finish it.
On the delay of game call on Foegele and how the Canes killed the 5-on-3: That was a little weird. We had a similar play in Dallas. Their guy knocked it out of play over the glass - it was very similar. Foegele hit it with his stick and their guy used his hand, so I don’t know what the difference is there. It’s just selling out and wanting it more than the power play does. There were some big blocks. Pesce and Slavin had some big blocks on the power play. We forced them to be a little over-aggressive with some passes. You can’t get much better than having Staal, Slavin, and Pesce on the ice there. Those are the three guys you want. When they fumbled it a bit there, we were all over them and didn’t give them any time, which you don’t really see on a 5-on-3. We were able to get the puck out a few times.
On how he and goalie coach Paul Schonfelder have progressed through the AHL to the NHL together: It’s been awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be there for me when I first got in. He was there from my second-year pro to these last three years in Charlotte - it wasn’t every day, but when he was able to be there he was putting in the work and looking at video just like we’re doing now. Even when he wasn’t there, he was watching video, watching games, and sending me clips. He always helped me get better and you can’t ask for much more. I really appreciate everything he’s done for me. It’s been fun to grow and progress and - for both of us - to take the jump together and to do this has been awesome.
On how he was able to maintain so much energy throughout the long penalty kill in the third period: I didn’t move around a whole lot on that 5-on-3, to be honest. Pesce had a huge block. I honestly didn’t move around much. Keep it tight on the 5-on-3, on the 5-on-4 you skate around a lot more, so I guess I stayed fresh that way.
On Nedeljkovic’s big night and his assist in overtime: He was huge. He played a heck of a game. We didn’t have our prettiest game tonight, but he held us in there and made some big saves when he had to. His puck-moving ability is one of the best in the league and it showed there with the overtime assist. That’s huge for us. The saves, obviously, but his puck-handling ability makes it that much easier.
On how the game progressed and how the Canes managed to get two points: It definitely could’ve gotten away from us. We found our game a little bit. We had spurts where we were really good and we were playing our game. Forwards were buzzing in the offensive points, up to the points ready to shoot. And there were spurts where we were getting ourselves into trouble. It’s a game you look back on and you’re thankful you got two points and you’re thankful you have a goalie that played that well. At the end of the day, it’s two points and that’s what matters.
On the importance of the President’s Trophy and if he believes in the curse: I don’t believe in that curse, but we still have to take care of business. We want to play well heading into the playoffs, we don’t want to go out on a low note. We want to keep getting better every game and continue to fine-tune the game heading into the postseason and make sure our game is where it needs to be at.
On if he knew how wide-open the net was on his block in the first period: Yeah, a little bit. I was watching the puck and I thought Domi would shoot it, so I was watching Ned and hoping he’d make the save, but he went backdoor to my guy so I had to do something about it. Thankfully, I got a piece of it.