After an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, the Hurricanes rebounded quickly with a 5-3 win over the Blackhawks on Friday night at PNC Arena.
The 5-3 score looks a bit like some of the other recent high-scoring wins that were loose defensively, but I actually think the Hurricanes took a step forward in that regard on Friday. The Blackhawks had a short outburst for two quick goals and added another late when the game was decided, but otherwise the Hurricanes allowed much less in terms of quantity and quality of chances against.
Likely reminded by Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour of the propensity to run and gun with the Blackhawks recently in Chicago, the Hurricanes started with much better attention to detail especially in terms of puck management and utilizing the forecheck to keep the Blackhawks from getting going north-south too quickly from their own end. The shot totals reflected the different style of play early. Coming out of the commercial break at about the 13-minute mark, the shots on goal totals were 3-1 in favor of the Hurricanes. The game would open up a bit as it progressed, but in total the Hurricanes were much better defensively and maybe more significantly in terms of puck management ‘oopses’ that cause transition opportunities. The Hurricanes would score first with another entry from the ‘when you are going well, everything goes your way’ category. From just inside the face-off circle, Nino Niederreiter stepped into a shot trying to beat the goalie far side. It was a decent attempt but he missed wide by a few feet only to have his missed shot ricochet of a defenseman’s shin guard and right into the net. The Blackhawks would get more pucks on net as the period progressed, but the Hurricanes were much sounder defensively and emerged from the first period with a 1-0 lead.
For the most part the second period would be even better. Vincent Trocheck would finish early on a pretty passing play by Jake Bean. The Hurricanes hit a couple posts on a power that deserved to score but did not. And the Hurricanes again were better at not giving the Blackhawks much in transition or via turnovers. Then it happened. First, Patrick Kane scored on a on 1-on-1 rush with a spin-o-rama and backhand that beat James Reimer to the far side. Then Ian Mitchell would fire through traffic from between the face-off circles with only 11 seconds remaining in the period. Suddenly a game that seemed in hand was tied at 2-2 heading into the third period.
But the Hurricanes power play rose up to seize control in the third period. First at the beginning of the period, Martin Necas had a puck go off the goalie, off the post and then off defenseman Calvin de Haan before trickling across the goal line. Then toward the end of the period, Niederreiter would finish in close on the power play on a deft Jesper Fast pass. Jaccob Slavin would add an empty-netter to seal the win before the Blackhawks added a final goal in garbage time.
Other than the odd outburst at the end of the second period, the Hurricanes played a cleaner game defensively but still would a good amount of offense.
Player and other notes
1) Nino Niederreiter
He can do no wrong with scoring chances right now. The biggest thing is the simplest thing. He is spending a ton of time at the top of the crease which is where goals happen. His first goal was the picture for, “It’s never a bad idea to shoot the puck” as his miss found the net anyway. And the second goal was just being in front of the net and ready to shoot.
Only Trocheck’s goal came at even strength, but the line was still very good all night. Necas was in high gear and both received and generated a couple other scoring chances while flying around. Niederreiter also had a strong game even outside of his goals. The line was the team’s best on the night.
3) Special teams
The Hurricanes did allow an inconsequential power play goal against late and were also scored on during a delayed penalty, but the Hurricanes also notched two big goals in the third period to go from a 2-2 tie to a 4-2 lead.. Those goals were the difference on the night.
4) Jake Bean
His assist on Friday was that of a playmaking defenseman. With a chance to shoot from a bad angle against a goalie in position, Bean instead was patient with the puck and held to keep the goalie on the post for as long as possible before feeding Vincent Trocheck who quickly finished into the other side of the net. Maybe more significantly, Bean has been mostly unnoticeable in a good way in his two games since replacing Haydn Fleury which should have him earning more trust with Brind’Amour.
With a COVID season schedule, change next up is a Saturday match up against the Tampa Bay Lightning that will be the first of four in a row between the two teams.