The Carolina Hurricanes — coming off of three straight losses to non-playoff teams in the final week of the regular season — looked more the part Tuesday night in their final regular season home game of the year.
The Canes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead before locking in to win comfortably. The win stopped some profus62e bleeding for the Canes, who now control their Metro destiny Thursday night with a one point lead over the New Jersey Devils atop the division.
About last night:
Antti Raanta’s net?
As the season reaches its final days, it’s looking like Antti Raanta is the guy making the best claim to be Carolina’s game-one starter when the playoffs get underway.
Tuesday night, Raanta was the first star of the game after a brilliant 20-save effort. He faced seven high-danger shots, stopping all of them, while allowing just one goal on 1.21 expected goals for the Red Wings.
For Raanta, it’s another strong performance since coming back from injury, though this one in a nice rebound for his one misstep over the past few months. After giving up four goals on Saturday against Buffalo, Raanta stopped 20 of 21 faced for his third win in four games since returning from injury. In those three wins, Raanta has 60 saves on 62 shots faced.
As the postseason quickly approaches, Raanta is making a pretty strong case that Carolina’s net should be his. Since the beginning of March, Frederik Andersen has a .904 save percentage, is 6-6-1 and has allowed three or more goals in seven of his 13 starts. Raanta has been stellar and consistent, and Tuesday night’s effort went a long way in showing that maybe he’s the guy to start game one — and even Thursday in a must-win contest.
A needed strong start
Postgame Tuesday, Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour credited the first period with being the reason the Hurricanes won the game.
And that’s a strong assessment from Brind’Amour, as the Hurricanes came out and scored two goals in the opening eight minutes of the game to set the tone for the evening. Stefan Noesen got to his area and scored to open it, while Jordan Martinook grinded a second to make it a 2-0 game.
In Carolina’s three straight losses coming into the night, the Canes found themselves down in the opening period to start the game, fighting from behind to try and get back into things. But Tuesday, Noesen and Martinook got after it early in a much, much better first-period showing from the Hurricanes.
All the marbles Thursday night
After 81 games, the Metropolitan Division comes down to one night.
Carolina and New Jersey are separated by one point atop the division, with the Canes holding the slight edge. The Devils do hold the tiebreak if things end even at the top, which could become important.
The Canes play the Florida Panthers — fighting themselves to maintain the top Wildcard spot which would mean avoiding the wagon that is the Boston Bruins — on the road. The Devils have the eliminated Washington Capitals, also on the road.
For Carolina, the formula to winning the division for the second straight year, and in turn avoiding the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, is simple: just win.
A win in Florida would clinch the Metro for the Canes. A regulation loss, and the Devils win the division if they win or lose in overtime. An overtime loss for the Canes, and New Jersey can win the division title with a win.
It’s tight, and it all comes down to Thursday night.