After all the pomp and circumstance that accompanied the NHL’s first outdoor venture in the Old North State, the Carolina Hurricanes clocked in an effort typical to their recent results - a dominant one.
The NHL Stadium Series went to Raleigh, North Carolina, and lived up to every expectation one could have had. Carter-Finley Stadium hosted a sellout crowd, and the Hurricanes treated them to a rousing 4-1 win over their division-rival Washington Capitals.
In the days leading up to the event, many people in and around the game commented that it was almost impossible to envision an event like that happening in a place like this. Unsurprisingly, the organization proved yet again that its relevance is steadily growing both locally and across the hockey landscape.
Last night was special. Let’s talk about it.
It was a night to remember for everyone involved in the Raleigh Stadium Series game, but it was an especially notable night for Martin Necas.
It was far from the first time that Necas made a big impact on a big stage, but with every passing big performance, his status as a top-flight player in the NHL continues to be established through his play up and down the ice.
After assisting on Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s opening goal, he netted one of his own in the second period.
His one-time blast on the power play broke a modest six-game goal drought and electrified a Carter-Finley crowd that would go on to enjoy an easy cruise to the finish line. His goal was his second of three points on another remarkably impressive night for Carolina’s blossoming star.
The entire Carolina second line, centered by the resurgent Kotkaniemi, was tremendous from start to finish. Teuvo Teravainen’s goal completed the trifecta of goals, one from each player on that line.
Necas led the way with three points, with Teravainen and Kotkaniemi both knotting a pair of their own. They were Carolina’s most dangerous 5-on-5 scoring line, and they very easily could have had even gaudier numbers if it weren’t for some near misses and timely stops by Capitals’ netminder Darcy Kuemper.
Necas is the first Hurricanes player to hit the 50-point mark this season, though Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are likely to reach that total over the next several games.
It’s always fun to watch young hockey players go through adversity and come out better for it on the other side. In Martin Necas’ case, his relative hardships a season ago (it’s not like he was a dumpster fire, he still had 40 points) helped him evolve into almost an entirely different player.
In the middle of one Marty Party, another Marty Party broke out with Carolina’s elder Marty.
We got an outdoor tilt‼️— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) February 19, 2023
Mantha and Martinook going at it pic.twitter.com/UEO4uyNM2j
Martinook (6’0”) fought valiantly with the substantially larger Anthony Mantha (6’4”), and while he didn’t necessarily come out victorious, no one was worse for the wear. It was just another fun moment on a fun night.
In recent days, two Eastern Conference-contending teams have geared up for postseason runs. The division rival New York Rangers went out and acquired Vladimir Tarasenko last week, and just two days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the move for center Ryan O’Reilly.
Understandably, that has taken over the conversation surrounding the Eastern Conference, with many analysts and hockey followers suggesting that the Hurricanes need to make a big trade at the deadline the keep up.
While there’s truth in that sentiment, last night was another big statement win for the club. They currently sit five points above the second-place New Jersey Devils, who they might be competing with for a big-name forward at the deadline.
The Hurricanes are 9-0-1 over their last ten games, though, which is a testament to the team’s current level of talent. But still, there still appears to be one missing piece that could put them over the top, especially after the deal made by teams around them in the standings.
For now, though, the Hurricanes will ride that impressive national TV win into a three-game homestand to close out the month of January. When March 3 arrives, the Hurricanes will be out West for a pair of games in Vegas and Arizona.
It looks like the Hurricanes are rising yet again, and last night’s win on a national stage put more focus back on the team atop that Metropolitan Division. What they do from here, though, remains a big question.