Thursday night at PNC Arena should have capped off with an uproar from the stands that carried a blissful buzz throughout the locker room, but despite a 5-2 thrashing of the Minnesota Wild, the Carolina Hurricanes demeanor was grim. One that was full of concern for one of their own.
With just 19 seconds remaining in the game, Max Pacioretty pulled up, took a step, and immediately reached for his lower leg. It was a non-contact injury, the kind that always signifies something much worse, and it happened on the same leg he had his Achilles surgery on earlier in the year.
There’s no point in speculating until official word is sent out, but it doesn’t look good in the immediate aftermath.
“It doesn’t look good, I mean we don’t know, but it doesn’t look good,” Rod Brind’Amour said after the game. “We know what kind of player he is and we got a glimpse of it and that was exciting, it was the kind of player that we needed. A guy that can put the puck in the net. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks, but I’m not too optimistic right now.”
Let’s try to recap the game though...
Wild struck first, with their first power play chance in the second period, as a Mats Zuccarello shot rebounded straight to Kirill Kaprizov for his 100th career goal.
However, the Canes regrouped quickly and, after a heavy offensive zone shift, Brent Burns got his team on the board.
While Burns’ slick moves will get most of the love, let me bring your attention to the yeoman work that Paul Stastny and Andrei Svechnikov did along the wall to keep that play alive. Both went to work, winning those one-on-one battles to keep the play alive and prevent Fleury from getting his stick back.
And not long after that, the Hurricanes’ power play finally broke through on its fourth time out there. It was the brand new power play two quarterback, Brady Skjei, who rocketed it home.
Skjei was a monster offensively for the Canes last year at even strength and now he’s playing a really solid two-way game and has set a new career high in goals with 10 in just Game
When things aren’t going well for a player, sometimes they have to find other areas to differentiate themselves in.
For Teuvo Teravainen, who’s had a tough go of it this season, that’s been the penalty kill for him.
Teravainen currently has the lowest GA/60 on the penalty kill among all Hurricanes’ forward and he’s been on the ice for four shorthanded goals, including his own to push Carolina’s lead to 3-1 late in the second period.
“He’s a smart hockey player,” Brind’Amour said on the Finnish winger. “You notice the little things when he’s out of the lineup and people have to take those responsibilities on. He’s good at those and it’s a big part of the game. His defensive responsibility at 5-on-5 or penalty kill is one of his strengths.”
Once the Canes got a taste for the goals though, the flood gates burst open. Jalen Chatfield hammered one home for his fifth goal of the season — he now has three in his last four games — and soon Martin Necas pushed the Carolina’s score to 5 with a power play blast of his own.
With the goal, Necas set a new career high in points with 42 in just game 45 of the season.
The Canes would give up one more to Matt Boldy, but they shut it down the rest of the way from there, including killing an entire five-minute major assessed to Andrei Svechnikov for a dangerous board of Brandon Duhaime.
One of the biggest keys for the Hurricanes was Frederik Andersen in net, who was once again a force, stopping 29 of 31 shots. He is now 3-0-0 since returning from injury and has a 0.944 save percentage in those games.
“That was maybe his best game that he’s played for us,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s played some really good games, but we were just giving up too many good ones and timely saves are so important. He looked really good out there.”
But while it’s nice that the Hurricanes pulled off a big and exciting win, the attitude of the team certainly didn’t reflect that.
“It definitely put a damper on the win a little bit,” Skjei said following the game. “ After seeing how much work he’s put into this point, we’re just thinking about him right now. It was just really, really tough to see.”
“That kind of sucked the wind out of everybody,” Chatfield said. “Knowing what he went through this year to come back from his injury. He was going to be — and still is — a big part of this team knowing the kind of player he is and I just wish the best for him.”
“It’s tough to get too happy about a win when you know more than likely what is happening here,” Brind’Amour said.
The Canes will practice tomorrow, where we may get more of an update.
After that, the Canes head to New York to take on the Islanders on Saturday.