I said on Twitter this afternoon and in my game preview that playing their fourth game in 6 days with a tough travel week that Saturday night was a ‘find a way’/’win any way you can’ kind of night. And that is exactly what the Canes did. After putting forward a reasonably solid effort early and opening up a 3-0 lead, the team ultimately needed overtime heroics to collect the second point in the standings. By no means was it a great game. By no means was it something the team would aim to repeat. But who cares. The Canes picked up with the 2 points that they needed and finished a tough week with a solid 2-1-1 record.
The game saw the Hurricanes control play out of the gate. When Andrej Nestrasil finished a 1-timer on a pretty through the seam pass from Elias Lindholm on the power play, the Canes received the lead that they deserved. When Kris Versteeg finished in close and John-Michael Liles cleaned up a rebound chance caused by Jordan Staal’s line in the first half of the second period, the Canes seemed to be on their way to a comfortable if not easy win. Then the team nearly fell apart in gifting away far too much to aid a Columbus comeback. First, Justin Faulk got pick-pocketed for a shorthanded breakaway and goal against. Then Faulk was beaten to the front of the net with Cam Ward uncertain whether to come out and challenge or sit back. Then Jaccob Slavin had trouble handling a puck in between the face-off circles in the defensive zone and partner Noah Hanifin got caught watching afterward as 2 Blue Jackets went to work in front of the net. After a nail biter down the stretch, the Canes at least earned a point by holding on for dear life to get into overtime. After enough suspense to pull everyone to the edge of their seats, an individual play by Jordan Staal erased the comeback and sent the Canes to the locker room with a win after a spirited eruption from the bench. Staal swiped a puck loose from Saad just inside the blue line and had just enough legs left at the end of a shift to get through the middle of the rink. Noah Hanifin’s hustle to fill the middle lane forced the Blue Jackets defender to play the pass and gave Jordan Staal just enough room to cruise in and rip a laser past the goalie for the win.
A few player and other notes:
1) ‘Any kind of win’
One has to credit some of the Canes struggles this week purely to physical fatigue and the effects it has mentally on playing the game. At some point the Canes will need to recharge and play a better brand of hockey, but that time did not need to be Saturday.
Led by Jordan Staal who has continued his recent run as the Canes best player, this line was absolutely phenomenal in all regards. Andrej Nestrasil scored on the power play to net the Canes first goal. The Canes third goal came when Jordan Staal won a face-off and Andrej Nestrasil shot through the havoc being wreaked by Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom in front of the net leaving a rebound sitting for Liles to bang in. Jordan Staal scored the overtime winner. And the trio was dominant in the offensive zone all night. The volume of shifts that they played almost entirely in the offensive zone such that the best the Jackets could do was clear and go off on a line change also setting up the next Canes line to start on offense. When it was over Jordan Staal won 17 of 25 face-offs, led Canes forwards with 20:39 of ice time in the second half of a back-to-back at the end of a long week and was the best player on the ice.
They had a solid game. On a night that saw some sloppiness, John-Michael Liles and Brett Pesce played a pretty clean game, logged north of 21 minutes of ice time each and were not on the ice for a goal against. The duo was the Canes best defense pairing on the night.
4) BREAK EVEN!!!!!
On the seventh try since losing on opening night and in their 43rd game, the Carolina Hurricanes finally clawed back to even at 18-18-7.
Next up is a short 2-day rest before another busy 4-game week with travel that starts with an important match up against the Penguins who are 1 of the teams that the Canes are hunting right now.