Last night’s match had all the narrative to just be a throwaway loss for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The team was sitting comfortably at the top of their division, on the second half of a back-to-back, on the road, following a string of hard and gutsy games and with a much needed break just on the horizon.
But instead of going through the motions, the Canes emptied the tank and dominated the Buffalo Sabres, defeating them 5-1 to enter the All-Star break on a high note.
Let’s look at how they did it.
Passing on Display
Was it the Carolina Hurricanes on the ice last night or the Harlem Globetrotters?
Nearly every goal came courtesy of a brilliant display of passing as the Hurricanes victimized the porous Sabres defense.
First it was Teuvo Teravainen on the power play, finding Sebastian Aho on the backdoor.
Sebastian Aho surface of the sun— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 2, 2023
on fire pic.twitter.com/E1qLOTtZUe
Then it was Martin Necas dancing around Mattias Samuelsson and threading it across to Stefan Noesen.
Soon after that, Jesperi Kotkaniemi dazzled with a great heads up play to grab a loose puck and immediately setup a streaking in Brent Burns.
Noesen also decided to share the love he received earlier, finding Derek Stepan with a ridiculous no-looker after beating out three Sabres along the boards.
We’ll even give Jordan Staal a little credit, winning possession of the puck in the defensive zone and getting it up to Jordan Martinook for the shorthanded, empty netter to seal the game.
Setting the Tone
Speaking of the captain, everyone knows just how good Jordan Staal is, but when he showcases his talents as well as he did last night, it bears repeating.
In 18:41 of ice time last night, Staal registered an assist, three hits, two blocks, two takeaways and was 17 for 19 in the faceoff circle (89.5%).
This is also coming off of a game in which Staal won 72.7% of his faceoffs including three straight in overtime against LA.
Staal has been a force this season for the Hurricanes, both offensively and defensively. He sits fourth on the team in goals with 14 and has been anchoring the shutdown line all season.
As he goes so to does the team go and it’s safe to say that he’s been going strong.
Antti Raanta is a Winner
Now 9-0-2 in his last 11 starts, Raanta has actually not lost a game in regulation since November 12, a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
His 29-save performance last night was also the most he’s made this season in a win and finally pulls his season save percentage back over 0.900 (0.902).
He struggled a bit early on in the season, but Raanta has been excellent for the Hurricanes and always finds a way to win it seems.
He was a key piece in the win over Buffalo as fatigue really started to set in for the Canes in the third period, but he and the defense stood tall to carry the team through it.
Additional Game Notes
- Sebastian Aho extended his goal streak to six games (9 goals). Only Ray Ferraro (7) and Pierre Larouche (9) have posted longer such streaks in franchise history.
- The Hurricanes’ power play has struck gold as of late, scoring in four straight games. Their power play success rate has risen to 20% and 22nd in the league.
- Carolina has now defeated the Sabres in 14 of their last 15 meetings. Their last loss came on April 5, 2022, a 4-2 loss at KeyBank Center but before that was March 22, 2016. Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe scored in the loss and Cam Ward made 21 saves.