Unlike what followed later, the first period was a fairly normal period. The Hurricanes maybe had a slight advantage at even strength, but more significant was the volume of penalties with the Hurricanes taking three and the Stars two. In killing off two and a half penalties and collecting a power play goal by Sebastian Aho, the Hurricanes emerged with a 1-0 lead. James Reimer seemed to be struggling a bit to track the puck again early, but a post and a couple near misses kept the puck out his net.
I was harsh but undeniably accurate when only 12 minutes into a horrendous second period, I declared on Twitter:
Wow. @Canes have already managed a disaster of a 2nd period in only 12 minutes of play. Covering eyes for remaining 8 minutes.
Very rarely is "hot mess" an apt technical description for hockey play, but here we have it.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 12, 2021
That was not hyperbole. It was that bad. The Hurricanes got a bit sloppy with puck management which repeatedly led to duress in transition and compounded it by defending poorly. The vast majority of the team was complicit in the debacle, but maybe most noticeable were the reunited pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin. Hamilton registered a breakaway behind him for a goal, a bad pinch at the blue line and a couple bouts of poor defensive coverage. After seeming to rebound, Slavin just looked off again too in terms of his usual stalwart defensive play. In total, the second period included three goals against, a disallowed goal, a post and a couple other near misses against in addition to . The Hurricanes could easily have given up five or six in a single period with most of those before being 12 minutes in.
But right now, the Hurricanes are a team that seem capable of outrunning any number of plays defensively. When Brock McGinn scored on a rebound late in the second period, the Hurricanes headed to the locker room tied at 3-3 as if the utter disaster had never happened.
And sure enough the Hurricanes followed it up early in the third period when a pretty Dougie Hamilton hit Nino Niederreiter just over the boards at the offensive blue line for a breakaway. Niederreiter got goalie Anton Khudobin to bite one way and neatly finshed into the other half of the net that was wide open. The rest of the game was not a defensive masterpiece, but the Hurricanes did at least eliminate the egregious errors that permeated the entire second period. That plus a few good saves from James Reimer was enough to pull out a 4-3 win on a night where they maybe did not deserve it.
Player and other notes
1a) More of the same offensively — Depth scoring
One of my watch points was the continued surge in depth scoring with the new line combinations. In a statement that none of that seems to matter right now. Brock McGinn ran his goal-scoring streak to four games with his fifth of the season, and Nino Niederreiter scored his sixth of the season. Those totals represent massive 37 and 44-goal paces.
1b) More of the same — Jordan Staal surging
During the wild second period, Jordan Staal collected another goal and an assist. The assist was another of the pretty variety that has become a nearly every game event lately when he fed a pretty backhand pass to Sebastian Aho for a power play goal. He was on the receiving end of an equally pretty Andrei Svechnikov backhand pass and goal. After sinking to 27 points in 68 games in 2019-20, he now has 11 points in only 9 games played in 2020-21.
With the long-rumored Arturs Irbe goalie curse lifted a couple years back, the Canes have mostly been conspiracy theory free in recent years until now. On Twitter I said:
Sure I sloughed it off as funny when I first heard it, but what of these rumors that Jordan Staal cut a deal with the devil a la Robert Johnson/Crossroads while on the COVID list? #LetsGoCanes
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) February 12, 2021
2) Penalty problems
As has been a regular problem lately, the Hurricanes shot themselves in the foot a bit with bad penalties. They took at least three in the offensive zone and compounded one of them by taking a too many men on the ice penalty to make for an extended 3-on-5 penalty kill. The Hurricanes mostly survived it allowing only one power play against and scoring one to offset it. But taking and surviving unnecessary penalties is not a well to go back to too many times.
3) Fighting through it
I thought James Reimer was fighting the puck a bit early in the game. He seems to be continuing to have trouble tracking the puck regularly going down early as if he is guessing. Dallas clanged the cross bar on what I think was their first shot. That play was maybe the most blatant example of him guessing as the player was shooting and going down early on a shot from a ways out that was aiming high. The tally against him was three goals against, two posts and a disallowed goal which is not a clean sheet by any stretch of the imagination. But in a results business, Reimer collected another win, did seem to settle down a bit as the game wore on and posted a zero goals against in the third period to close out a win. Trajectory will be determined by what happens next, but with the win this has the potential to be something to build on.
4) A step backward
After being separated and both taking a small step forward, the reunited Slavin and Hamilton struggled on Thursday night. They were right in the middle of too many of the messes especially in the second period.
5) The ability to outrun errors
After seemingly having a tiny margin for error and losing even games where they deserved better for most of a decade, the Canes newfound ability to just outscore their errors on lesser nights is a ton of fun.
What is this Canes world where bad games just mean scoring even more to win? Sure the team needs to be better, but in an odd way in some ways this is a sign that they are better.
Next up is a rematch in Dallas on Saturday night.