After the sloppy play of the past week, the Carolina Hurricanes needed a much stronger showing to prove to not only themselves, but to the fanbase, that they are still a capable team.
They needed to come out with a quick and hard response to start the game and, luckily, that was what they did against the Detroit Red Wings.
“The first period, that’s where we won the game,” said coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We came ready to play and kind of got the lead. It wasn’t great after that, but we didn’t have to be which is what’s good about coming ready to play because we won the game in the first period.”
The Hurricanes’ second line — Stefan Noesen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas — along with Shayne Gostisbehere and Jalen Chatfield, put together a long and heavy shift in the Detroit end that went on for a over a minute and half before Noesen tucked it in past Nedeljkovic’s pad.
And not long past that, Carolina built on that lead. With heavy traffic in front, Brady Skjei sized up the opportunity and instead of just shooting it through the mass of bodies, he instead laced it cross-ice to Jordan Martinook wide-open on the backdoor for the easy goal.
“Me and Skjeisy locked eyes and whenever you lock eyes with him, it usually turns out to be a pretty good thing,” Martinook said on his goal. “You’ll get lost in those things. But no, I saw there was five guys in front so I wasn’t going to go into the muck. Usually he’s going high glove there, but he found me on the backside.”
Detroit would cut the lead early on in the second period as Joe Veleno set up Robert Hagg from below the goal line for a blast.
But not long after that, Brent Burns let one fly from the point where it redirected off of Veleno’s back and in past Nedeljkovic.
The Hurricanes shut it down from there and then Kotkaniemi capped it off with the empty net dagger in the final moments of the third period.
Antti Raanta turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced to cap off a nearly perfect home record. The Finnish netminder registered at least one point in every appearance at PNC Arena this season, finishing with a 11-0-1 record along with a 0.916 save percentage, 2.06 GAA and three shutouts.
“The main thing was to get the win today,” Raanta said. “I kind of knew that we were ready to play with how yesterday went and how the road trip went. For me, it was just one shot at a time and obviously making sure that we got the win. I wasn’t thinking too much about whether it was my last game before the playoffs or not. I was just trying to get us over the line to win.”
The Hurricanes still control their own destiny to win the Metropolitan Division and all they need to do is win on Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
“It’s going to be interesting no matter what,” Brind’Amour said on the final game. “With the seedings and everybody, it’s going to all come down to the wire.”
Obviously a few other scenarios can play out for Carolina to clinch the division, but the easiest way to do it is to just win.
“We want to win,” Martinook said. “If we win, we’re first. It’s a big game. A big goal for us is to be first in the division.”