Sunday featured some exhilarating, high-stakes games across the sports landscape in North America.
For the Hurricanes, Sunday’s interconference tilt with the Sharks was their final game before the NHL All-Star Break. While they didn’t get a real homecoming with Dougie Hamilton on Saturday, they did get one with James Reimer, who made his first appearance back inside of PNC Arena.
It was only fitting that the Sharks got a vintage Canes performance out of the veteran backstop, as Reimer allowed a soft early goal before showing out the rest of the way.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, a strong goaltending outing wasn’t enough to push them over the Hurricanes, who got a late goal from Andrei Svechnikov in a 2-1 win.
Like the night before against the New Jersey Devils, the Hurricanes got on the board in the early stages of the game.
Off of a line change, Vincent Trocheck carried the puck over the offensive blue line in a one-on-three scenario, and his long-range wrister beat Reimer on his blocker-side at 4:36 of the first period.
Things started to get a bit chippy in the shifts immediately following the opening goal. San Jose defenseman Radim Simek took a rough hit from behind from Trocheck deep in the Sharks’ zone, but a penalty didn’t get called on the play.
Moments later, Svechnikov got into a shoving match with Jeffrey Viel, which ended up on the Sharks’ bench after Viel pushed Svechnikov through a wide-open bench door.
Svechnikov got two minutes for roughing. Viel got a double minor for his involvement in the incident, building on the 3+ penalty minutes per game rate that he’s racked up so far this season.
The Hurricanes failed to score on the power play, and then the Sharks followed suit by coming out empty-handed after an offensive zone interference call on Svechnikov at 13:19 of the opening frame.
After a strong start, the Hurricanes started to get a substantive push back from the Sharks as the period wore on, but they held onto their one-goal lead through the final buzzer of the first period.
The second was a bit of a slow burn. Much of the first five minutes of the middle frame was spent in the neutral zone as neither team could muster up anything in the way of offense. Carolina started to mount pressure near the midway point, which was answered with an equally strong push from the Sharks before a pair of penalties slowed things down again.
Simek slid into and wiped out Nino Niederreiter as he was poised to have one of Carolina’s best scoring chances of the entire night. That power play was short-lived, though, as Trocheck tripped Brent Burns in the San Jose zone and set up a brief four-on-four sequence which produced little offense for either team.
The Hurricanes came out of that mess with more momentum, testing Reimer a handful of times from in close but failing to build upon their lead by the time the second period ended.
Frederik Andersen was tested just four times in a relatively slow and sleepy period of hockey.
Carolina came out of the locker room and quickly tilted the ice towards San Jose’s net, peppering Reimer with high-danger chances in the opening minutes of the period and flirting with scoring their second goal of the night.
They couldn’t get it, though, and it only took one push the other way for the Sharks to even the score.
After the Sharks managed to corral a loose puck deep in the Hurricanes’ zone, Rudolfs Balcers was able to make his way into the slot and out-wait Andersen to break the ice and get the game back to square one.
The Canes bounced back and continued to mount pressure as the period progressed, and they eventually broke through and retook the lead thanks to the hot hand of Svechnikov.
An offensive zone faceoff win from Sebastian Aho led to the Hurricanes working the puck back to the point. Brett Pesce successfully got the puck on net, and Svechnikov was there to clean up the loose change, ignite the crowd, and tally the game-winning goal.
The Sharks nearly tied the game again in the final minute of the game, but the combination of desperate defense and big stops from Andersen helped the Canes keep their lead and close the game out on the right side of a 2-1 final tally.
Svechnikov’s goal was his second game-winner in as many games. He enters the break with seven goals and 16 points in his last 12 games. Andersen delivered another outstanding performance in his 24th win of the season, stopping 27 of 28 shots.
The Hurricanes go into the All-Star Break on a four-game winning streak and a 16-4-1 home-ice record.
They will hit the ice again in eight days when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the meantime, Sebastian Aho, Frederick Andersen, and head coach Rod Brind’Amour will participate in the NHL’s All-Star festivities in Las Vegas.