On Tuesday night in Dallas, the Canes started strong and carried play for the first 7-8 minutes. It turned out that this was just the warm up for the Stars who then capitalized on Cam Ward’s ongoing struggles and quickly scored 4 goals on 8 shots to close out the first period with a 4-0 lead.
At that point, Ward was done. The game was over. And you could not fault Canes fans from wandering off to see what else was on TV.
But the Canes responded by skating hard, attacking and pushing forward in the right way in the second period. The second period featured Jaccob Slavin’s first career NHL goal on a play worthy of video. He picked up a puck in the neutral zone, beat 2 Stars defenders before zipping a pass across the rink and then went to the net to finish a rebound. When Valeri Nichushkin scored late in the third period, the Canes deserved credit for not quitting, but the game still seemed over.
Then it got even wilder. The Canes played the third period with a high octane attacking style and roared back with 4 goals to tie the game at 5-5. Phil Di Giuseppe became the fifth Hurricane player to score his first NHL goal this season. Justin Faulk notched not 1 but 2 more power play goals to get to an eye-popping 11 goals through only 28 games. And Jeff Skinner continued his run of skilled finishes to tie the game at 5 with 7 minutes remaining.
The Canes continued to push but ultimately lost when a questionable penalty call and a heartbreakingly appropriate soft goal ultimately doomed the team to a 6-5 loss.
As frustrating as the outcome was, it in no way dims what the skaters did Tuesday. And if you could get past the goaltending and the result, the game was a great showcase for the #TheFutureIsNow theme taking shape on the roster. The Canes young defensemen looked better not worse when the team dialed up the pace and started attacking aggressively. Slavin scored. Faulk scored twice. Hanifin has his first 2-point game with 2 assists. Di Giuseppe scored.
A few player and other notes:
1) The goaltending
It was just horrible. It was overshadowed by high-scoring wins on Saturday and Sunday, but Ward continued a string of games in which he struggled to find his way into and just struggled in general. Lack was statistically better with only 2 goals allowed in 2 periods, but that is not saying much. And when the Canes need a big save or 2 to get to overtime, he instead had a puck leak through him to end the game.
2) The style of play
The biggest story of the game for me was how good and how comfortable the Canes looked when they opened things up a bit and played faster and a more aggressively. The Dallas Stars are arguably the best team in the league right now and that is THEIR style of play, and the Canes took it to them in the third and even in the second period. The ‘not down 4 goals’ version looks a tiny bit different, but as I keep saying with Hanifin and Slavin, the goal is for the young D to not just be okay but to drive the play and create offense. We saw some of that when the pace picked up with the highlight being Slavin’s goal that I detailed above.
3) The Stars
Lost in trying to count scoring points for the good guys might have been the huge night that the Stars offensive leaders had. Sure it was a bit easy with the Canes struggles in net, but Benn and Seguin each finished with 4 points and Klingberg with 3 to lead their team to a win on a night when maybe they did not deserve it.
4) Jaccob Slavin
Good for him notching his first NHL goal. What continues to be most exciting about Slavin is that he brought his full skating/creating style of play to the NHL with exactly no comprises or dialing it down while he gets acclimated.
5) Justin Faulk
His 11 goals in 28 games is a pace for 32 goals in an 82-game season. That is utterly astounding. He was half of an oops when he and partner Ron Hainsey let Nichushkin walks right between them on the way to the net for a goal, but he bounced back with 2 power play goals, the first of the regular ‘cannon from the point’ variety and the other a less common bang in near the net.
6) Noah Hanifin
As noted above, he notched 2 primary assists both times putting the puck on a scorer’s stick. His play on the Faulk blast was heady and pretty. He received the puck in the middle of the ice up top and used the room given him to move forward and stick handle long enough to attract attention and open up a ton of room for Faulk to shoot through. He also had a nifty forward pass with touch on Di Giuseppe’s goal to go with looking increasingly comfortable on the power play. One of things about Hanifin that stood out as early as rookie camp in July is the soft skilled forward hands that he has. They contributed to what was probably his best game offensively this season.
7) Phil Di Giuseppe
Good for him also netting his first NHL goal on a quick shot in close after catching an elbow and getting his nose bloodied earlier in the game. He has not seen a ton of great scoring chances yet, but it was nice to see him make the most of the 1 he got on Tuesday night.
It is hard to find too much fault in this game aside from the goaltending, and the silver lining of the team’s young players stepping up shined as bright as ever.
Next up is game 2 of 4 on the road in Anaheim on Friday night.