The Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up a tough week in a fantastic way Saturday night, overwhelming the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-0 win that was dominant from start to finish.
Coming off three straight losses, the Hurricanes were looking to stop a skid and hold onto a slim lead in the Metro. The recipe for success, it seemed, was a meeting with the Canadiens, who the Canes have now beaten six times in a row.
About last night:
A defensive masterclass, and capitalizing on chances
The Canes won 3-0 — and the three goals were a needed output — but the commanding win over the Canadiens started with an absolute shut down of Montreal chances.
The Canes outshot the Canadiens a staggering 50-14 in the game, as in 60 minutes the Canadiens mustered just 14 shots on goal and just nine scoring chances. Single-digit scoring chances over the course of the entire game! For comparison, the Canes had 19 scoring chances in the second period alone.
The Canadiens just simply didn’t have the space to create much of anything. What they did create, wasn’t too threatening. Montreal didn’t have a single shot on Antti Raanta on the rush, and they didn’t do great job of getting to dangerous places. During six minutes of power play time, the Canadiens had zero (!) scoring chances.
On the other side of things, the Hurricanes piled on shots and scoring chances and made the most of a few opportunities. Sebastian Aho scored on the power play, a much-needed goal for a unit that has really struggled as of late. The Canes outscored their expected goals, something they haven’t done a ton of in the last week, and they overall just got to their game and created havoc in the offensive zone.
Every win is important for the Hurricanes right now, as Carolina is still holding onto a one-point lead over the Devils in the Metro as the season comes down to the wire. After an ugly loss to Tampa followed by a last-second loss in Detroit, the Canes needed a win Saturday. And boy did they get one.
Brady Skjei’s stunning season
Brady Skjei opened the scoring for the Hurricanes Saturday evening, mishitting a puck at the point before gathering it again and firing it into the net.
For Skjei, the tally was his 17th goal of the season, as this year he has taken a MASSIVE step forward in his ability to put the puck in the net. Skjei has always been a very capable offensive blue liner, but his 17 goals in 2022-23 are nine more than he’s ever had in a season in his entire career.
With 17 goals, Skjei is tied with Cale Makar for fourth among NHL defensemen. Cale Makar! Ahead of them are Erik Karlsson, Dougie Hamilton and Roman Josi. And with absolutely no offense intended to Skjei, who is clearly doing the damn thing this year, that’s not exactly the company you would expect Skjei to be keeping in terms of goal-scoring output.
Skjei is now just one goal away from Hamilton’s Carolina Hurricanes (since relocation) record, and with the way he’s been playing lately there’s a feeling that record could very well be Skjei’s by the end of the season.
Welcome back, Raants
The other big storyline in the shutout win for the Canes was the return of Antti Raanta in net, as the netminder made his first appearance since March 7 in the win over the Habs.
And while not heavily tested, Raanta was very good in his return to the ice. He made 14 saves on 14 shots faced to grab his fourth shutout of the season, which is tied for the second most in all of hockey.
With the playoffs looming at the end of this month, getting Raanta back to health and on the ice is huge for the Hurricanes who know have their dynamic goaltending tandem back together on the ice after both Frederik Andersen and Raanta missed time late in the season into the playoffs a year ago.