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About Last Night: Dominant Win Ends In Misery

Canes knock off Caps with a dominant 6-1 win, but at what cost?

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

On the first leg of a gruesome back-to-back (facing Washington and Tampa Bay), the Hurricanes made light work of the Capitals in a 6-1 triumph on the road. It was one of the most complete efforts of the season for the group as a whole, and spirits were high until they unfortunately came to a crashing halt in the dying seconds of the game with an injury to Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Overall, there was a lot of good to take from such a beatdown against a top division rival. It was a statement win for the Canes, against a Caps team that they were batting 0-for-3 against on the season. It was dominant from start to finish, and it’s easy to forget that after the emotional ending to the contest.

Without further ado, let’s talk about last night:

The Good

  • Since a midseason run of form that left some fans frustrated with Martin Necas, he’s been on an absolute tear since the trade deadline passed. Over his past four games, he’s bagged 4 goals and 2 assists, looking much like the player he’s expected to be. With his combination of lightning speed, puck skills and soft hands, when he’s engaged and playing at his best he can be one of the most dynamic players in this league. Making sure he’s dialed in and playing to his potential is a major key for the Hurricanes if they hope to put together a long playoff run. I really believe he’s their X-factor.
  • Max Domi picked up his first point as a Cane on Derek Stepan’s first-period goal, in stylistic fashion. He took a looping route at the blueline to get onside just before Stepan entered the zone with the puck, and in turn was wide open on his strong wing. He took the entry pass and played a cross-ice pass to Kotkaniemi, who managed to find Stepan alone in front of the net. It was a great link-up play from a fourth line that undoubtedly has a lot of skill.

The trio was buzzing all game, and I was excited to see how they continue to grow together … until the senseless last-second injury to Kotkaniemi puts a question mark over his season. When asked after the game, Domi was complimentary of the trio and alluded to the chemistry that they were developing.

“I’ve had some good chemistry with them.” said Domi. “[It] goes a long way when you’re coming to a new team and new system.”

The Bad

  • It goes without saying, but the injury to Jesperi Kotkaniemi leaves a sour aftertaste to a game that should’ve been celebrated. The entire play was an absolute bush league display from Lars Eller. As a 12-year NHL veteran, he should know better than to charge a guy with one second left on the game clock, especially in a game where your team is down 5 goals. You’re not sending any message, and you’re not impacting the outcome of the game. It was totally senseless and unnecessary.

And as such, Kotkaniemi’s availability for the rest of the season is undoubtedly in question. He was helped to the locker room and video showed him walking with a serious limp, after his leg locked underneath him as result of the hit. He’s a very key component to both the bottom-six and the team’s second PP unit, and he’ll be a difficult player to replace should he miss an extended amount of time. Rod Brind’Amour was (understandably) not happy about it:

“He [Eller] hurt a player. He’s injured. We don’t know how bad, but he’s definitely going to be out.” said the Canes’ coach. “The game was over. Let’s just get over with it - two seconds. I don’t like it, but what are you going to do about it.”

Domi wasn’t too thrilled with the play either:

“I mean, that’s brutal. It’s such a tough play.” Domi said. “I can’t really speak too much on the play. We don’t like it, obviously. [Kotkaniemi is] a big part of this team and we need everyone here, so seeing him go down is not easy. Hopefully, he will be okay.”

In case you missed the hit, have a look for yourself:

  • Brendan Smith was a notable bright spot and did his job to perfection, getting under the skin of multiple Capitals players and playing with an edge. I was very happy with his game last night. But I have to include him in the “bad” category strictly because of his fight against Tom Wilson. I mean listen — major kudos to him for stepping up, and it’s what he has to do to be effective. But I just hate to see a guy who literally just returned from a skull fracture taking punches to the head. He’s an absolute warrior, but the fight was really tough to watch.

Finding The Net

With 13 goals in the past two games, the Canes have matched their total in the six combined games prior. It’s nice to see the team getting rewarded for their hard work and bounces finally starting to go their way. According to Marty Necas - who was as snake-bitten as anyone, the bounces were always going to come.

“We’re getting a couple of bounces and pucks going in.” he said. “When we lost four or five in a row, we always had 40 or 45 shots and scored one or two goals. It was only a matter of time for that to come and now it’s here.”

Let’s hope that trend can continue.

What’s Next?

The brutal home stretch of the schedule continues tonight for the Canes, as they’re in Tampa Bay to face a Lightning team that’ll be hungry for revenge after losing 3-2 to Carolina at PNC Arena last week. We’ll likely see Antti Raanta get the start in what’s set to be a 7 p.m. puck drop.