It was a tight, back-and-forth affair Sunday night, but the Canes came out ahead thanks to special teams and some solid goaltending.
With Frederik Andersen sidelined with a minor injury, it will be up to Antti Raanta to carry the load for a little bit and he came through again with a 28-save performance.
The Hurricanes also won the special teams battle, notching two power play goals while conceding just one against.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest factors in last night’s win.
The last month or so had been a real struggle for Necas.
An 18-game goal drought, while not the longest the Hurricanes have seen this season, is a brutal stretch for any player and especially one as young and talented as Necas is.
His last goal, dating back to January 15, was “a bardown birthday goal.” A beautiful snipe off the rush very much accustom to the dazzle we’ve come to expect from him.
But then Necas entered COVID-19 protocol and was sidelined for the next two games.
Since then, he had just seven points in 18 games, all assists — five of which were primary at least — but it was apparent that something was off.
We still don’t know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on players, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of players taking a while to get back to “full-speed” after an infection.
Maybe Necas was dealing with some lingering issues from then or perhaps there was a different nagging injury. We may never know, but what has been apparent is that Necas’ compete level has definitely been more noticeable in the last couple of games.
And finally, he got one to go.
“I was trying to not count the games I haven’t scored,” Necas said, “but it gets a little bit in your head. I don’t think in my career I’ve ever waited that long for a goal, but it happens. The last few games I started feeling a little better and getting more chances. Today it finally went in. It’s a good feeling. Great win. Let’s just bring more.”
It was one of those goals you need to break a slump. Going to the net and cleaning up a rebound in front. Not glamorous nor pretty, but they all count the same and this one was a game-winner to boot.
Hopefully Necas continues to improve, because the Canes really need him to start showing up more consistently.
It was announced at the morning skate before the game that Frederik Andersen was dealing with a minor injury. Nothing serious, but one where they’d like to let him take some time off to rest.
So, because of that, it’s going to be Antti Raanta’s net here for a little bit.
And it seems it couldn’t have come at a better time, because Raanta is rolling as of late.
Raanta is 3-0-1 in his last four starts (should be 4-0-0 but his team let him down in Detroit), and has made some really excellent saves in those games.
He’s tracking the puck well, has fluid and explosive lateral movement and is just coming up with those big-time stops when the team needs him.
“I think the last month pretty much since the New Jersey game it’s been feeling good, starting from practice,” Raanta said after last night’s win. “It took a little while to adjust myself to this team and get myself going, but now when you get those games and the good results and good 60 minutes, obviously it bumps up the confidence. You go to practice and just try to keep it there and build it up. When the game starts, you don’t have to think. You just go there and play the game. It’s way more fun doing that than going there and thinking about what’s going to happen. You just go there and play the game. You don’t wait for something to happen. You don’t wait to make one huge save and then go ‘Ok, now I’m in.’ It’s just you go there and make yourself the game and try to make the saves. The guys are helping me a lot, so that’s huge. It’s nice to play behind those guys.”
He’s more than doing his part to help the team win and when you have a guy playing as well as Raanta is alongside a Vezina-candidate in Andersen, that’s huge.
The Hurricanes are stacked in net and it’s probably been a long time since Carolina fans felt this secure with the goaltending position.
Despite missing their electric powerplay quarterback, Tony DeAngelo, the Hurricanes have to be feeling good about the state of their power play.
With two tallies last night — one from each unit — it’s safe to say that the Canes may be getting their swagger back on the man advantage.
The biggest difference has hands down been the play of Teuvo Teravainen.
Teravainen is tied for fifth in the entire league for power play points with 25.
Since returning from injury, Teravainen has 10 power play points, was on a nine-game point streak and has scored five goals. The Canes PP struggled without him and is now thriving with him. It’s pretty easy to see the common factor.
He’s been lights out for Carolina all season and is one of the most underrated players in the league.
Outside of Teravainen though, the elevated play of Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho has also helped heat up the power play and the unit will only get better when DeAngelo finally returns.
It was also good to see the second unit finally get on the board again. It can be difficult for the second unit because they typically have to start on the fly and need to establish zone entries, but they got it done.
It took some patience by the Hurricanes and some hard work in front, but it all paid off in the end.
Necas, Ethan Bear and Seth Jarvis do a good job in facilitating the puck movement in the triangle, but the real work comes from down low by Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nino Niederreiter.
Jarvis getting on the board is also a huge plus because he’s had some troubles of his own as of late, so hopefully the young rookie can continue to improve his game.