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About Last Night: Canes out battle Blue Jackets in overtime

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The Canes finish the season series with a 5-1-2 record against Columbus and maintain their lead in the Central Division.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes finished up their season series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 2-1 overtime win to bring the series record to 5-1-2. The win saw the Canes continue their march to first place in the Central division and extend their point streak to 10 games. In their last 10 games, they have a 7-0-3 record.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in the shootout to the Red Wings so the Canes now have a four-point advantage over the defending champions. The Florida Panthers' win over the Chicago Blackhawks has seen them move to within two points of the Hurricanes, but with two more games played. It is also important to note that the Panthers and Lightning have two games against each other to close the season.

With the Canes having their final games against the Nashville Predators, all four playoff teams from the Central could play each other nine straight times.

Rod Brind’Amour is driving the team to enter the postseason with its foot on the gas and not just coast into the postseason. The success isn’t worrying the players or the coach who don’t buy into the President’s Trophy Curse.

SAT Line Continues Success

In the first period with the Canes down a goal, the “SAT” line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen showed up on the scoresheet again. Teravainen scored yet another goal. The line is so dangerous because every player can create space, pass, and score. This time Aho entered the zone and Svechnikov drove to the net, drawing attention from the defense.

The defense focusing on Svechnikov left open ice for Teravainen to skate to and hammer home a one-timer from the Aho feed. This also marks the first time that Teravainen has had goals in back-to-back games since Feb. 15 when he accomplished the feat against the Blue Jackets. Teams need to watch out if Teravainen isn’t scared to shoot the puck.

Aho was also named the Central Division’s top player for April. He had six goals and 12 assists in 16 games last month and shows no signs of slowing down. Aho’s assist last night also extends his point streak to seven games. In these last seven games, Aho has three goals and nine assists.

Jaccob Slavin for Norris

Without the play of Jaccob Slavin, the Canes would have had no chance of winning the game. This started early in the first when Slavin made a sprawling kick save in front of an empty net to keep the score a one-goal game. This also begs the question if non-goalies are allowed to earn saves because this play was certainly a save and not a block. This was just one of his team-leading three shot blocks for the game.

Later in the third period, the Canes took an odd delay of game penalty where Warren Foegele tried to bat the puck down with a high stick, and instead, it went over the glass. It’s the first time a deflection has led to a puck over the glass penalty. This also happened less than 30 seconds into an Aho penalty. For the next 2:18, Slavin did not leave the ice.

He killed the entire 5-on-3 and the remaining time on the conventional penalty kill. Another one of the small plays that ended up having a huge impact during the 5-on-3 was Slavin having the patience and presence of mind to skate the puck out of the zone to kill more time than if he just shot the puck out.

He has also made huge strides in improving his offensive game. Last night, his five shots ranked second on the team behind only Dougie Hamilton. This also included a breakaway in overtime that almost ended the game (right before Hamilton did end it). His new confidence carrying the puck to open areas and a new willingness to shoot the puck is yet another tool in his packed toolbox.

Alex Nedeljkovic Shines Bright

With more than 30 minutes played last night, Ned has just one more game to play for his contract status to move from unrestricted to a restricted free agent status, which is huge for the team. Ned has proven to be as much of a two-way player as a goalie can be. His puck-moving skills are incredible and last night they directly led to the game-winning goal. The primary assist was his first NHL point, but his ability to move the puck and do so quickly means that he could end up with an NHL goal at some point in his career.

His influence playing the puck has rubbed off. Since he has been playing, James Reimer has appeared to be more aggressive with handling the puck, and why not. When you are seeing a guy skate out and either break up a play defensively or start an offensive break of your own….you’re going to start trying it yourself.

Nedeljkovic also kept the team in the game with his 31 saves and again a save percentage over .950. He saved eight of nine high danger chances he faced last night and let up only one goal on 2.61 expected goals against.

Looking Forward

The Canes battled through a game where they didn’t have all the bounces and were handed an undeserved extended 5-on-3 against but they battled through it all to get an important extra point in overtime. The Canes now have just five games left, the same amount as the Lightning and two more than the Panthers.

They now face the Blackhawks three times in a row at home before heading to Nashville to take on the Preds to finish out the season. The team has just a single back-to-back set left starting Monday. The Canes will likely need to win three more of these games to clinch the top seed in the Central Division.