Something about the Carolina Hurricanes and playing in absolutely electric games on New Year’s Day.
Last year, it was the seven-unanswered goals in a comeback effort to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This year, a back-and-forth offensive explosion that the Canes managed to outpace the New Jersey Devils in to snag a 5-4 shootout victory for the team’s 11th straight win.
Not every game is going to be pretty, but the important thing is finding that way to win.
For Antti Raanta, who was starting in his fifth straight contest, that meant digging deep and resetting his mentality.
Raanta had a stellar start to the afternoon in New Jersey, turning aside 15 shots through the first two periods before conceding a highlight goal to Devils’ star Jack Hughes.
The Canes had jumped out to an early lead thanks in part to a stellar performance by the fourth line, in particular Derek Stepan and Stefan Noesen who combined for two goals in the game.
And when New Jersey netminder, Mackenzie Blackwood, turned the puck over to Sebastian Aho for a shorthanded goal, it looked like Carolina was going to have an easy path to victory.
But the third period saw Raanta progressively struggle more and more as the period went along.
Early in the period, Devils winger Jesper Bratt raced down the wing and sold Raanta on a pass, but instead he ripped it five-hole. Raanta was visibly upset by the goal and it seemed to affect his performance down the line.
The Canes scored a go-ahead goal thanks to Stepan, but then Nico Hischier scored immediately on a wraparound goal. Then, not long after, Jesper Bratt scored again on a leaky goal through Raanta’s armpit, and all of a sudden the Canes were losing.
On just seven shots in that third period, the Devils managed to score three goals and things were looking like it was going to come crumbling down.
But the Hurricanes managed to tie the game on the power play — Martin Necas scored his 16th goal of the season (tying his career high) thanks to an Andrei Svechnikov screen — and forced overtime.
And as the professional that he is, Raanta refocused himself and took the ice with a fresh mentality.
From there “Father Finn” was rock solid, making some big saves in a lightning fast overtime and then when it came time for the shootout, he was a wall, stopping all three New Jersey shooters for the win.
It’s easy to tuck it in when things don’t go well, but Raanta’s resilience in net to turn his poor third period effort around, was a just as crucial a factor in Carolina finding that 11th straight win as the goals.
It isn’t always going to be pretty, but finding the way to win is what matters and that’s the mentality the Hurricanes radiate.
That’s not to say that Raanta was the reason for the win, as the Canes’ timely offense was what led them to victory, but Raanta’s turnaround performance in that overtime and shootout still needs to be commended.
Now with 11 straight wins and points in 17 straight games, the Hurricanes are by far the hottest team in the NHL.
The quest for even larger streak numbers will continue in New York as the Canes take on the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.