On Thursday night at PNC Arena, the Carolina Hurricanes closed out a strong 8-3-1 October with a hard-fought win over the Calgary Flames. The 2-1 score is misleading in terms of NHL entertainment value. The game had a good pace to it, decent chances both ways and even some physical play and chippiness. The score was kept down only by the fact that both goalies played well.
The game did not start out auspiciously for the Hurricanes. Some of the sloppiness that has plagued the team intermittently of late reared its head. The Flames scored first when Jordan Staal lost track of Elias Lindholm after the two were entangled. Lindholm wired a shot from between the face-off circles and beat Mrazek. Later in the period, Jake Gardiner failed to clear a puck from just inside the defensive blue line. Then Martin Necas trailed a Flames player instead of playing into the passing lane to the front of the net. The result was a quick transition and goal before the Hurricanes could sort things out and defend. But the Canes caught a break when a challenge ruled the play offside and disallowed the goal. The first period featured a few other miscues and issues defending, but the Canes were luck to escape with only a 1-0 deficit.
The second period started much better. The Hurricanes forecheck was effective early, and the Hurricanes had the better of play through the first half of the second period. But with no luck on the scoreboard after the early push, the game was still an uphill battle for the Canes. Calgary picked up the pace again in the latter half of the second period, but with both goalies standing tall, the second period finished with the score still 1-0 in favor of the Flames.
That set the stage for an epic third period that saw Andrei Svechnikov rise up and carry the team to victory. First, he scored on a ‘wow’ goal lifting the puck and wrapping around a lacrosse goal midway through the third period. Then only 3:22 later Svechnikov scored again on a more traditional power play snipe to stake the Canes to a 2-1 lead. Calgary would push again including on a late power play and again with an extra attacker on, but the Flames did not convert that push to much in terms of shot volume and Petr Mrazek stood tall as the Hurricanes held on for a 2-1 win.
The game was one of the best contested on the young season. Minus the messy first period for the Canes, I thought both teams played well and that the pace and counter-punching by both teams made for an entertaining game.
Player and other notes
1) Andrei Svechnikov
He was obviously the story of the game with second consecutive two-goal effort. Suddenly, Svechnikov is now scoring at a point per game pace and has five goals that puts him on target for 34 over a full 82 games. And the trend is higher than that right now. Two good games could prove to be just a short hot streak, but the more intriguing possibility is that we are witnessing the beginning of Svechnikov taking a step up in 2019-20 that is more than gradual improvement.
2) Petr Mrazek
He was overshadowed a bit by Svechnikov’s heroics, but Petr Mrazek also posted a strong follow up effort coming off of his shutout on Saturday. Mrazek battled throughout in a game where the opponent was good and the margin for error was non-existent. Mrazek’s 6-1-1 mark indicates that he has been good enough in a number of games this season, but by my count this is the first time that he has posted consecutive strong starts. (The other debatable option was the 5-2 win over the Islanders followed by his shutout over the Kings, but the Isles win was more the result of the team than Mrazek’s play in my opinion.) Regardless, Mrazek is trending up right now.
3) Special teams
Special teams were not a huge part of the game in terms of time, but in a tight game Svechnikov’s power play goal was the difference on a night when the Canes penalty kill was perfect including surviving a late Flames power play. I have (deservedly in my opinion) been hard on the Canes special teams. Tonight was a win in that regard and the difference on the scoreboard.
4) Erik Haula
He continues to just be a good hockey player even on quieter nights on the score sheet. He was the screen on Svechnikov’s power play goal and also made a handful of plays to advance the puck out of danger in the third period.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a set of back-to-back home games starting on Friday against the Red Wings and Devils have struggled early on.