The Carolina Hurricanes started off their six-game road trip on the right foot, managing to stave off the Pittsburgh Penguins’ late pushback Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena in a 3-2 overtime victory.
The theme of the game could be summed up as “Sticking to it,” as all three Hurricanes goals came off of either playing until the end or second chances. It was a good sign for a group that had recently been undone by poor luck time and time again to show a strong brand of resiliency.
“We had a good game,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We played hard. They kind of had a little push in the third and we had a little mess up on the 6-on-5, probably should have kept the pressure on and we came off and they just floored one in. I also didn’t love our first period, especially after our first power play. I felt it gave them life. But after that goal, I felt like we really played a solid game. After a little bit of a sluggish start I thought we were solid.”
Early on, it was all Pittsburgh, as the Penguins stormed out of the gate with momentum and a quick strike by superstar Sidney Crosby saw the Canes trailing within the first five minutes.
But Carolina tightened up a bit from there and goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov didn’t let the early goal shake his mentality. Kochetkov has showcased his strong mentality throughout his young North American career and it might be one of his greatest strengths.
The Russian turned aside 30 shots in the win and stopped 0.46 goals above expected to bring his season goals saved above expected total to 6.9 according to MoneyPuck.com.
“They came out pretty hard,” said Sebastian Aho. “We expected it, but still they have a good team as well. After that goal, we kind of regrouped pretty well and took over the game.”
The Hurricanes then flipped the script in the second period, pushing both the pace and shot counter up, and it was some names that we keep coming back to this season leading the charge.
Martin Necas found himself in the right place at the right time to put away a Brett Pesce point shot that encumbered Pens goaltender Tristan Jarry. The puck trickled to Necas at the side of the goal and he pushed his goal total to 11 on the season.
Following up on that later in the period, the Hurricanes forced a turnover in the neutral zone leading to a rush into the Penguins’ zone. Sebastian Aho put a shot towards the net and Jarry failed to glove it properly, allowing it to spurt free to the side of the goal.
That’s when Andrei Svechnikov swooped in, collected the puck and executed a quick wrap-around goal — his team leading 14th of the season — to put the Hurricanes ahead.
We’ve seen both players dazzle with their individual skills, passes and snipes, but last night showed that effort and determination are just as important.
Cycling pucks, winning net front battles and being in close for rebounds is a crucial key to success and one that can’t be overstated.
“It all starts with the effort,” Aho said. “The guys are working hard and the goalies have been good for us. Penalty kill has been pretty good for us too the last couple of games. Just being able to stick with it and get the two points.”
But Pittsburgh is a team with a lot of star power and they wouldn’t go down without a fight. With Jarry pulled for the extra attacker, the Penguins managed to keep themselves alive as Jake Guentzel found a soft spot in the Canes’ coverage and managed to deflect a point shot in past Kochetkov.
The game was headed to overtime, an area where the Canes had not been too fond of recently.
The chances went back and forth, but a bit over two minutes in, some controversy struck.
As Bryan Rust skated with the puck near the benches, Seth Jarvis came from behind and knocked him off the puck.
Jarvis did extend his arms through the check near the boards, but Rust also turned his body into a vulnerable position right before the hit. It’s a call that could have been made, but one the officials deemed not worth a call. The refs give and take in any game, but especially in a close overtime game where the rules are usually tossed out the window.
However, the Penguins decided that, regardless of a whistle, they were just going to stop playing to try and mug Jarvis, allowing Pesce, Svechnikov and the puck to go down the ice unimpeded.
A 2-on-0 commenced and Pesce finished off the Svechnikov pass past Jarry for the win. It was Brett Pesce’s second straight game-winning goal, having scored the game winner three days prior against the Calgary Flames as well.
“I don’t know really what happened,” Pesce said “I kind of saw everyone trying to fight Jarvy and the puck squirted out and I didn’t hear a whistle so I was like, ‘Eh, I might as well go for a breakaway.’”
The Hurricanes still have a long trip in front of them with five more games remaining before they return home. So it’s going to take that consistent resiliency to keep pushing through these long days on the road.
The next challenge will be a stop in St. Louis to take on the Blues Thursday night.
“You’d love to say, ‘Hey, this is going to build into something,’ but I'm not a big believer in that too much,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s a new day tomorrow and a there’s new game coming up against a really great opponent. But I think it does put the guys at ease a little bit knowing that their hard work is paying off.”