The Canes dominated possession of the puck and the analytical side of things for most of the game, but let the Flyers hang around for most of the afternoon. But Jordan Martinook scored the game winner in the third on a redirect, with Sebastian Aho adding an empty netter.
Steven Lorentz opened the scoring for the Hurricanes in the second period, finishing off a great pass from Derek Stepan, who picked up his 500th NHL point in his 800th NHL game.
Frederik Andersen was good once again in Carolina’s net, returning from an injury to pick up right where he left off.
Following the win, head coach Rod Brind’Amour, Martinook, Stepan and Andersen spoke with members of the media.
Here is what they had to say:
On it feeling like a lot of things didn’t quite click either way in this game: It wasn’t a pretty game, that’s for sure. I thought our first period was really good. I thought we had a lot of good opportunities. They did a nice job in their own end of keeping us to the outside. We didn’t get a lot of grade-As in the second period. [Andrei Svechnikov] had a couple breakaways, but for the most part it was tough sledding. There wasn’t a lot of room.
On Stepan saying these were the types of games the team would be facing down the stretch: It’s pretty much all year. It’s the NHL. They are all tough games. We’re at a point too where teams know they’ve got to give their best to beat us, so you usually get a real good effort out of the opponent. I can count just a handful of times where the other team wasn’t good. It’s a good thing because it keeps us sharp. We can’t afford not to be or we’re going to have a real tough night. Tonight was a tough night. I thought Freddie made some real big saves to keep us not having to get out of what we try to do, and we found a way.
On when Carolina became the hunted: I don’t think it’s that so much as the last few years we’ve been a good team. We’ve got good players. We play hard. It’s different than six or seven years ago, I can tell you that. It’s a different feel when we play teams. Again, I think it’s good for us because if we don’t come ready, we’re going to be in for one.
On guys like Martinook, Stepan and Lorentz stepping up in this one: They’re all tight. To that, when you get to the next stage all of the games are one play. You have to be able to play in those tight games and stick to what you are doing. And then contributions from everyone. You can’t always rely on the top guys scoring. I think this year we’ve been pretty good at that. Everybody is contributing.
On flip-flopping the lines and Aho and Svechnikov: It was to see if we can get a little more balance throughout the lineup. That’s all. We know that I can put them together, but they haven’t really scored a lot of goals. It’s looked good, and they do really dominate play. But they haven’t really connected for most of the time they’ve been together if you really look at it. I like to just look at things differently now and get a feel for what might work and some adjustments we might have to make moving forward.
On how Stepan has handled being in and out of the lineup: In my 30-whatever years I’ve been in this league, he’s probably the best I’ve ever seen at handling it. Plain and simple. He’s been a pro every step of the way. It’s not easy, especially with a guy through his career has never really had a thought of being in this kind of role. I’ve never seen anybody handle it better.
On it having to feel good to score the game winner: No, I hated it. No, that was a nice one, especially with the time in the game. I felt like I was all over it all night and had a lot of chances. It felt good. Especially because I don’t think my wife and my kid have been to a game in a while, it was nice to score when they were here.
On them being a good-luck charm: I don’t know, maybe. He’s been asking for a goal for the last month, and I haven’t been getting him one. He’s still here and he wants to see me, so he’ll be pumped.
On his line Saturday: Yeah, when you put Svech with anyone and [Trocheck] is so calm and can kind of dictate the play with patience. And then Svech is just a bull. Whenever you get to play with him it’s an easy game. He rags the puck. I haven’t played with him much since year one, so that was a nice treat to get back with him.
On maintaining the proper mental focus for these games down the stretch run: I thought our first was good. Our second we got off it a little bit, and then our third was good again. I guess Colorado was kind of the same way. I guess we’ve got to figure out that second period a little bit. They played hard. It’s not like that team is rolling over by any means. They’ve played us hard all year, and tonight was no different. It’s no easy games at the end of the year. I guess we’re not quite at the end of the year, but in the stretch here there’s no easy it games. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, it’s going to be a tough one.
On if he was aware they’ve scored a point in 13 straight home games: I wasn’t really aware of it until I’ve heard it five times in the past 20 minutes between ESPN and you guys. I don’t know. You go out there and you hear it and feel it. The crowd helps. I don’t care what anybody says, if they say that a crowd doesn’t help you perform. We’re feeling it. The emotion that they bring translates into what we bring. I attribute a lot to the 19,500 or however many people are in that building. It’s a lot on their shoulders, too.
On the 800th NHL game compared to the first: The same. Nothing has changed, not one bit. That’s my answer, and I’m sticking with it.
On if he had more hair in the first game: A little more. Not much more, but a little bit more.
On if 800 career games or 500 career points is bigger: I don’t know. It’s funny how the game works. The stars aligned, and it’s a special night and something not many people get the opportunity to do. I’ve been fortunate enough to have that. It just keeps adding on to the things that I’ve been lucky enough to cross off. It’s another one.
On the game as a whole: We’re in the final stretch. This is what it’s going to be the rest of they year. It’s gonna be tight games. It doesn’t matter who they are playing or what style they want to play, this is how hockey is going to be at this time of the year. It ramps up and becomes playoff hockey. We saw some of that tonight. Not a whole lot of room. Both teams were doing a good job of keeping their guys away from net, and that’s the whole game.
On the challenges of being in and out of the lineup: It’s not an easy job, that’s for sure. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in that situation, so I’m learning as well. I’m learning what are the things that can help me so that when my number is in the lineup I’m ready to play. I wish I had a solid answer for you, but I don’t really know what the right thing is. It’s a day-by-day situation, and when your number is ready to go then you come in and do the best you can.
On Kotkaniemi’s game: When he has the puck on his stick he’s got a big body, and he’s able to create space for himself a lot. Obviously the talent is there. He shoots the puck well. He sees the ice well. I think he has the ability to create himself 5 feet of space, and that’s a special trait. When he is in that 5 feet, he makes plays. Very rarely do I have to come back to the bench and say ‘did you see this or that’ because he has seen it. His game is really good. I enjoy playing with him, too. We communicate well together, me, him and [Lorentz]. It’s fun to be a part of the kid line.
On Lorentz finishing at the net: I joked with him that it’s just because of me. He’s one of those players that he’s created so many opportunities for himself that as he goes through his career here, he’s going to continue to score goals because he’s in the right spots and putting himself in a spot to score goals. He understands the game, and he’s going to score a lot of goals because he has that knack.
On Lorentz going to pick up the puck out of the net for him after the goal and on what that says about his understanding of the game at his age: He gets away with being a young guy. He ain’t a young guy anymore. He’s 25. He’s the middle-aged guy. But he gets it. He really does. But like I said, he’s going to have a long career and is going to be able to put the puck in the net for a long time.
On how he felt in his return from injury: I felt pretty good. Not too much else. We played really well. We started the first period really well, and I went on from there. Obviously they pushed back a little bit, but overall I felt really good.
On what his injury was: Upper body. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t concussion related. I was feeling some symptoms that could indicate that, but we wanted to rule that out and make sure that I didn’t go in and get another hit to early. It was just a big relief not having it diagnosed like that. Having dealt with it before kind of helped me not rushing back and making sure I didn’t put myself in danger like that. It was just ruling it out and making sure that it was not a concussion.
On if he felt like he picked up where he left off: Yeah, I felt pretty good. We worked pretty good in practice this week. It was just making sure I was working on things that make me successful on the ice.
On if his injury was due to the collision in the Washington game: The one with Wilson? Yeah.
On if he almost came out of that game: I wasn’t feeling great the following days were a little bit off. It was just symptoms I’ve had before with a concussion, and we just wanted to rule that out and that that wasn’t it and that we treated it accordingly.