On a night when the Carolina Hurricanes appeared to be down and out, it was their young stars who rallied and pulled them out of the jaws of a tough home-ice defeat.
After Mario Ferraro scored on Carolina’s empty net from the middle of his own slot, it looked like the Hurricanes were destined to see their three-game winning streak come to an end, but a quick response from offensive leader Sebastian Aho, followed by a strike from Martin Necas with just 12 seconds left in the third period, pushed the Canes to overtime.
In the extra frame, it was the 3-on-3 King himself, Necas, who ended the game and extended the Hurricanes’ winning streak to four games with their win over the San Jose Sharks.
Let’s talk about last night.
Martin Necas didn’t get voted into the upcoming NHL All-Star game, but if this is how the forward plans on responding to those snubs, maybe he should never get voted in.
Jokes aside, it was a marvelous night for Necas, whose impact on the game started well before his two goals in rapid succession to tie and win the game for the Hurricanes on Friday night. The young forward was flying out of the gates, creating a couple of rare early scoring opportunities for the club on a night that didn’t feature many easy chances for the home club.
Of course, when he did break through, it was in the big moments of the game. Necas has, time and again, shown up in the most important sequences in games for the Hurricanes this season. That fact has remained even when he has gone through stretches of offensive inefficiency.
To Necas’ credit, those stretches have been fewer and further between this season compared to previous seasons, as it seems like his game-breaking ability is finally making routine appearances.
On the heels of a three-game point drought, Necas has exploded again over the past week for four goals in as many games to go with an assist against the Minnesota Wild. The volume of his shooting has been a substantial key to his success. He threw five shots on the net last night, with the final two finding twine. This season, he has 160 shots on goal in 48 games. He had 159 in 78 games a season ago.
He has also added to his career-best goal total. He met the 20-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career with his third-period tying tally and surpassed it in overtime.
Aho Keeps Going
Necas’ valiant game-deciding effort shouldn’t overshadow what was another dominant effort from Sebastian Aho. His second-period power-play goal was created by his own vision, speed, and finishing ability in tight.
Then, just seconds after San Jose’s empty-net goal, he jumped all over an unexpecting Sharks club to get the goal right back and set the stage for Necas’ heroics down the stretch. Of course, it was off of a great feed from linemate Teuvo Teravainen.
Like Necas, Aho has a very good case for being in the All-Star game. It certainly didn’t help that he was injured around the time that All-Star voting started to enter the hockey conscious, but his numbers since returning have been remarkably strong.
Dating back to December 29, his third game back after missing more than two weeks due to injury, Aho has scored nine goals to go with 16 total points over his last 13 games. He has scored a staggering six goals in just his last three games.
It’s better to have a team with All-Star snubs than it is to have a team without any, and last night was a good example of why the Hurricanes are in a pretty good spot with their high-end forwards.
A Game You Gotta Win
Last night was a nice reverse of fortunes for the Hurricanes, who have had well-documented third-period struggles for much of the season. Last night, it was Carolina that came back from the brink of defeat to steal two points.
It’s an especially satisfying win considering San Jose’s low placement in the Western Conference and the overall league standings. At 14-25-10, entering last night, the Sharks ranked comfortably inside of the West’s bottom five grouping of teams. They’re a rebuilding team that has been buoyed by top-flight players like Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier, but their weaknesses lie in the defensive department.
The Hurricanes struggled to penetrate their defense for much of the night, especially when they had opportunities to build on their lead. San Jose did a great job at making things difficult, but at the end of the game, the best team and the best players showed up.
We are firmly entrenched in the dog days of the NHL season here in January. The deadline is still more than a month away, and there isn’t much excitement around the league, as is normally the case at this point in the year. A win like the one Carolina got last night, though, is one that sticks out across the NHL.
Hopefully, this is another jumping-off point for the team to rack up some wins, but it won’t be easy. The Hurricanes will welcome the Boston Bruins into PNC Arena on Sunday for a true test against the best team in the NHL.