For the fourth and final time in a first-round series against the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes held down the fort on home ice in PNC Arena.
This time it was in a winner-take-all game seven, as the Canes came out on top, 3-2, thanks in big part to the heroics of trade-deadline acquisition Max Domi.
Domi assisted the Hurricanes’ first goal, scored by Teuvo Teravainen, and then scored two of his own to have his best game as a member of the Canes in the team’s biggest game of the season so far.
Following the pivotal game seven win, head coach Rod Brind’Amour,
On Domi: Speed. He’s so quick. And he’s got a touch. Whenever he gets the puck he does good things with it. Tonight obviously he showed that. He was the difference maker tonight.
On the top guys contributing: Everybody was solid. Our top guys played really noticeably. It’s tough to find anyone that didn’t play really well. It was the right way. Everything was right from the start until the last 20 seconds where it got a little hairy. Solid, solid game.
On if he learned anything about his team in this series: This is not surprising. I didn’t like a couple of the games in there, but it was just weird. It wasn’t like our game was bad, but it was some special teams stuff. If you take that many penalties against this team then you don’t have a chance. We were able to do a better job with that. I like our game. Our overall game as a team is solid.
On Raanta: I’m proud of him. He’s been through a lot this year. Not just physically, but overall. Nobody at the start of the year would have anticipated him being the guy and stepping in in the biggest moments to be the guy. I’m happy for him and proud of him because he’s gone through so much.
On the defensive corps: The reason our team is successful is because of the [D] you mentioned. All of them. They just play so well. They’re hard to play against. They defend well. They make plays. All of them. All of them played lights out all series. I don’t know how many points we got from the back end, but it was a ton. A very, very good group.
On getting past Boston: It’s such a different feeling coming into this one. Back in the other ones if we would have won you guys maybe would have been surprised. This time around it felt like it was our time. Our guys have matured. They handled that.
On Domi and Raanta stepping up: You’ve got to give management credit for making the moves they make. They bring in guys that help and add to our group. Both of those guys were huge in tonight’s win.
On Staal’s leadership: We talk about it all the time. He’s just a solid player. He’ll do anything you want him to do. He’s our leader. Everyone just kind of follows suit. When you have a guy who plays that way, it makes a coach’s job easier.
On Staal showing he’s worthy of the Selke against Bergeron: Maybe for people who don’t watch us. I’ve been saying this for a long time. He can do whatever you ask him today. Bergeron has kind of renamed that award, but Jordan deserves a lot of credit as well.
On why he feels like it’s ‘their time’: I’ve had a lot of faith in this group since day one because I know what kind of people they are. The league is so close. The talent is so close. You’ve got to have good people. They’ve got to want to do a little extra. When you have a lot of guys who you know and think that way, then you’ve got a good chance. I felt like our chances were pretty good.
On the last 20 seconds: We had a great game, and then that last 20 it went out the window. But that happens. That always happens. It made it interesting. This team, we always make it interesting.
On if they celebrate and appreciate this: We celebrate. I get my enjoyment from watching these guys celebrate. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching them feel good about themselves. Obviously it’s one step. We need to enjoy it today, and tomorrow will be on how we take the next one. But you do need to take time and enjoy it.
On Raanta’s tough year and having this moment: Everybody has got a life outside of hockey. He’s had a tough go the last year. That makes his story, you pull for guys like that. All our guys do.
On taking the step: We took a nice step today for a lot of reasons, but now we’ve got to refocus.
On the feeling now: It’s relief, for sure. And then, the first round for me is always the most emotional. It’s always the one that’s the most intense. And then you’re hoping it goes on for another month and a half. It sucks a little out of everybody as it goes along. Sometimes getting out of the first round is actually the toughest because it’s so emotional. The next round will be emotional, but I think it kind of dies down a little bit as you move along. Now it’s getting refocused. That will be the next challenge.
On the overall team effort: It was a huge effort all around, top to bottom. It starts with the goaltending, which was huge. Everyone played their hearts out. That’s what we need. I’m proud of all our guys.
On the mood and excitement of moving on: Game seven, four, five, six, whatever it is you’re advancing, which is the best thing. We’re going to rest up over the next couple of days and get ready for the next one. That’s all we can do. The guys played their hearts out, and it was awesome.
On Domi: We all know Max is a heck of a player. It kind of seemed like he was coming out of his bubble there, which was awesome. That’s great. Hopefully he’ll continue to be great going forward for us. Two huge goals, three points tonight. That’s huge. It takes everybody. It was a full team effort.
On everyone getting involved: We knew we were going to need everybody. It was a great rebound game. Everyone was engaged, involved, winning battles and doing whatever they could to chip in for the win. We had to have it. There were some big individual efforts, you need that as well. But everyone was involved. It was a good team win.
On Raanta: Raanta has obviously been good all series. He made a couple of timely saves tonight. He was another piece that needed to get a W.
On the series: It was a very tough team, series was back and forth. A lot of momentum changes and different stuff that you have to deal with mentally. I thought our group was getting better as we went. Tonight was another one where we stayed on track like we wanted to. In game six it didn’t happen, but we stayed on track and played our game or the whole game. That’s what we have to do if we want to keep moving forward. We knew it was going to be a tight game. That game was expected.
On going against Bergeron: What a player. What a good line. Dangerous every time they go on the ice. My line, we’re so solid. We’re very smart with the puck. We made sure, we created a couple good chances, but taking away theirs was our number one goal. That line is very hard to play against it. It was nice to be on the winning side.
On potentially going to Pittsburgh for the playoffs: It is what it is. They’re both good teams. I mean, a playoff series against Pittsburgh would be different for sure. But either team is a tough opponent, and we’re excited to be moving on.
On the character of the team showing up: I think so. I think we’ve got a group that is deep. We’ve got a group, especially this time of year, where you’re going to need everybody. Everybody chipped in the right way in different places. It’s the culture that we want to build here, and everyone was working hard.
On Brind’Amour’s demeanor before the game: Would it be weird to say that he never really changed? He’s the same thing every day. He expects the same thing every day. What we’ve built here, the way we’ve played from game one to now, it’s the way we want to play. Whether it’s game seven or the 50th game of the season, he says the same thing. It’s the same message. It’s that desire to play for each other and play hard and really just bring it. I thought everybody brought it tonight.
On finally getting past Boston: It doesn’t hurt, obviously. Definitely a sour taste against those guys. They took what we wanted away from us a couple of times. It hurt most of the guys in that room. It’s nice to be on the right sid enow.
On the crowd: It’s so loud in there. It’s so much fun to play in. It’s exciting. It’s what you want as a player. It’s what you play for and dream about. Our fans have been unbelievable, and it’s going to get even better.
On Domi: Great addition to the group. A great dude. He fits our mold. He’s a guy who is willing and ready to work and do whatever it takes. It’s nice to see him get rewarded with some big goals in big moments for our team. We’re going to need special moments like that from everyone throughout this run. It’s great to see him chip in, and he’s a heck of a player.
On having this big moment this year: Obviously I was pretty lucky to come to a team like this. I didn’t take it for granted. I’m very fortunate. It was a fun stretch. I got adjusted and got comfortable, and obviously that was a heck of a series with this team. Tip your cap to Boston. They played outstanding, and they’ve got some veteran players over there. They’re the real deal, obviously. They’re guys that I’ve looked up to for a long time. To be able to come out on top in game seven is big. It’s a huge win. Got to get ready to go for the next one now.
On if he had a sense after the first goal that things were going his way: In the playoffs you have to have a pretty short memory. They’re a great team. We knew it was going to be a tight game tonight. Both teams had everything on the line. We found ways to score and capitalize on the chances we had. Overall, the first one was a heck of a play by [Slavin] and [Teravainen] buried one. I was just sitting there on the second one, and the third one was an incredible play by [Vincent Trocheck] on the forecheck, and a better pass by Teravainen. Overall we’ll take it, and it was a huge win.
On this team: That’s what we’re all about. When you have that going, it’s fun to be a part of. It really is. No matter what, we come in waves. Every guy can come in here every night. The guys stepped up tonight. It’s massive.
On if he was thinking about scoring again after the first: Nah, not really. There’s a little bit more on your mind than that. Like I said earlier, you’ve got to have a pretty short memory. It’s all about winning. It’s a 60-minute game for a reason. Ultimately when you’ve got a lead like that you can’t take too much time to reflect on it and sit on it. I think our group did a great job of that tonight. They made it interesting at the end there, but when you have Raanta back there and the D corps we do and guys like Staal and Nino [Niederreiter] and [Jesper Fast] back there, they lock it down pretty good. It was a great effort by everyone. Massive.
On if he switched up anything with his routine: Nah, honestly it’s just like any other game. I know it’s game seven and everyone hypes it up. Part of being a pro is to prepare the same way. That’s how you stay even keeled, not just through a game but through a whole series. There’s going to be some adversity, and you’ve got to learn to accept that wave of adversity. We have a strong leadership group. Everyone can find a way to do that. That’s how you win a series. It took us to the very last game, but we’ll take it.
On the atmosphere: You’ve got to give a shoutout to this crowd here. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never been a part of a rink or atmosphere like that before. We don’t take that for granted. They’re just as much a part of this victory and series win as any player. We’re very lucky to have the Caniacs in our corner. We had some fun tonight, and I know they did too. I’m looking forward to more fun in the future here.
On this game being the dream: This is why we play, right? It’s all about winning. In games like this, it’s do or die. You think about these kinds of moments as a kid. It’s fun to be a part of. We’ll enjoy it tonight, and then we’re getting back to work tomorrow. That’s the beauty of the playoffs, that we have to keep playing. I’m looking forward to who we’re playing next, and I’m sure it’s going to be an even tougher matchup. We’ll elevate our game. I’m confident we will.
On the overall win: I think our whole team stepped up. Like I said earlier, credit to the fans. They knew how big this game was. I think they deserve it. This team deserved a win tonight. They’ve played so hard this year. [Brind’Amour] talks about it all the time, and so do the older guys in this locker room, but they play the same way for 82 games. That’s a playoff hockey style. Usually when game one starts in the playoffs teams have to adjust a little and get their game to a higher level, but nothing changed for these guys. Same thing with the fans. Overall when you’ve got that recipe, it’s usually pretty successful. That’s what you saw tonight.
On his game: Everything felt good, but when they got the second one it was probably the longest 20 seconds in my life, for sure. They got the puck deep and got their chance, and it was just a scramble to the end. But when the buzzer sounded it was probably the best feeling in a long time. It was a big relief for sure.
On his emotions: It was obviously a big one to get this series done and get the series win. When Freddie got hurt, it was kind of like a chance for me to show what I can do on the big stage. Starting from game one I thought my game was pretty good. And obviously today it was lots of battling and grinding it out. Guys were playing amazing today in front of me. They killed a penalty when we needed. A lot of blocked shots and rebounds they took care of. It’s a pretty nice feeling, for sure.
On his early save on Taylor Hall: [Erik] Haula was coming with a lot of speed, and I don’t know if it was instincts but you feel he’s going to his backhand. When I saw the pass going, I just tried to get something in front. I was able to get my leg there and keep it out. Like this series went, it was huge for us to get the first goal. That calmed us down and it went from there. You try to make those saves and give your team a chance to get the lead. Especially in the playoffs it’s big, you get the lead and you don’t have to chase the game. It was obviously nice to make that save.
On the Staal line shutting down the Bergeron line:We had our troubles in games where we played in Boston and they had the change. I think we did a pretty good job even though they were pretty deadly in those games in Boston. But [Staal]’s line did a great job. It’s pucks deep and forechecking and keeping the pucks there. When you get those guys to defend a lot, it will take a bit from the offensive play. I thought that was big for us to get our number one line.
On how he’s fit in with this team: Since probably day one. When we started the season, Freddie was unbelievable straight away. I was kind of fighting my way back to the game. There were some ups and downs early on in the season. I think at the All-Star break it started to feel like I was also contributing. I think guys started to trust me, and I was able to show that I can also do the job. I think when the playoffs started you have the confidence as a group. When one of the best goalies in the league goes down with an injury it’s going to sting a little bit, but we’ve been playing the whole year and the team in front of me is doing a great job. I just tried to do my job to get the win.
On his emotional year: Before the game we were talking with [Paul Schonfelder], and we always have the chat before the game. He told me ‘whatever happens today, your old man, wherever he’s watching, he’s super proud.’ I think that was the last thing to get in my head. Whatever happens today, it was obviously great to get the win and have my kids in the stands and lots of people texting me and lots of people in Finland staying awake for today’s game. It’s great. Obviously it would be great if my dad was here to see this, but I’m sure he’s somewhere and he’s super happy.
On his family: Yesterday after practice we got home and were thinking about today’s game. These guys make you forget about hockey and keep you busy. Sometimes they’re a little bit too wild, but you take that and try to stay with them and be a role model. It’s awesome to go home every time. They don’t care if we won or lost, but they’re super proud. It’s special, for sure.