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About Last Night: First game in forever, Canes back on top with 6-3 win against Flames

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Calgary Flames 6-3 Friday night in their first game in nearly a week.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes (24-7-1) returned to the ice for the first time since New Year’s Day to take on the Calgary Flames (17-10-6), and they put on a show despite the time off.

Despite the slow first period that has plagued the Canes a few times, Carolina was able to bounce back and exhibit quite an offensive showing, with three goals coming in the second period and two goals netted in the third. This win propelled Carolina to the top of the Metro standings, only behind Tampa in the NHL, who has played four more games. The Canes have remained impressive all season, and this game was no outlier.

Another slow start

During the first 20 minutes of the game, Carolina had to find its legs. Understandably so, since it had been almost a week since its last game, which was a huge comeback win against Columbus.

This game followed a similar trend as New Year’s Day — starting from behind early. Calgary was able to take advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone and take the lead just five minutes into the game.

Carolina struggled throughout the first period, but luckily ended the period with one goal, despite an unimpressive 10 shots to Calgary’s 21. This was thanks to netminder Frederik Andersen, who has come in clutch numerous times this season when the Canes are a bit rusty at the beginning of games.

Fortunately, the tables turned in the second period, as Canes fans have grown accustomed to seeing, and the Canes were able to break the ice and get the win.

Fast’s 500th

It was a landmark matchup for Jesper Fast, as fans witnessed his 500th career game. Not only that, but he scored the opening goal at the end of the first period, giving the Canes a burst of energy that led them to their win. Fast has been impressive this season, with eight goals and five assists in 31 games played. This already exceeds his goal total from last season, as he scored six goals in 46 games during an (even more) COVID-19 riddled endeavor. Tonight’s goal was a major one, and it was only fitting that Fast was able to be the one to score it.

“Especially during that time, we needed a goal to kind of get some confidence going back and definitely move our legs a little bit more,” Fast said.

Needless to say, Fast has been making an impact all season, and it was great to see him shine in his 500th game in the show.

Stepan stepped on the lead, a myriad of goals follow

The remainder of the game was offense-heavy, and Derek Stepan was able to continue the rush of goals with 12:20 left in the second period. This gave the Canes their first lead of the game, which was never lost.

This was followed by two more Carolina goals, from Tony DeAngelo and Andrei Svechnikov, respectively. I’ll touch on Svechnikov in a minute, but the depth that this team has exhibited this season has been a much-needed surprise. Many had their doubts about DeAngelo, but on the ice, he has proved himself worthy of the roster spot. He’s noticeable in every game he plays, both on and off the scoresheet. He has already amassed seven goals and 17 assists in 24 games, which is nearing a point-a-game pace.

Last night, he gave the Canes a padding that allowed them to hold a lead for the entirety of the game, even when Calgary was able to fight back into a one-goal game.

Penalty kill thrives

The Carolina penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4 last night, and it was phenomenal to watch. Yes, they took too many penalties. No, it didn’t end up mattering. But if they hadn’t taken those penalties, we wouldn’t have gotten to be amazed by what the Canes can do on the kill last night, and I’m glad for that.

“We’re on the same page,” Fast said. “Everyone knows what to do.”

It’s really hard to explain how the kill has become so effective, but the team chemistry clearly plays a massive role in its success.

Svechnikov shines

Svechnikov drew a crucial penalty early in the first period, scored a gritty goal in the second and closed the game off with a power-play goal. I’m not sure there’s much more you could ask for from Svechnikov. He has been able to solidify his dominance in the league this season, whether it’s shown by his powerful goals, his toughness on the ice or his willingness to admit when he makes a mistake. It definitely was present last night in each of those ways and many more.

“Obviously the first period wasn’t our best, but thank God we came out in the second period, and I think we played a great game,” Svechnikov said.

He ended the contest with a “bang!” as the Canes showed up and showed out in their first game back from a long holiday break.

What’s next?

This was the first game of a back-to-back endeavor, as the Canes host the Florida Panthers Saturday night in a high-level matchup. Carolina is now 3-1-0 in the first game and 2-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

The Panthers and the Canes are neck and neck in the standings, and are a possible playoff matchup to be, so tonight’s game will hold more weight than many others have this season. The Panthers are leading the season series, as they topped the Canes 5-2 back in November, but it’s a new year, so let’s see if the Canes can even it out tonight with a win.