The Hurricanes roller coaster of a November continued its upswing on Tuesday. The Hurricanes played their best game in the current three-game road winning streak (with four in a row overall) in a collecting a solid win in Chicago.
The first period had good pace in both directions early but the Hurricanes had the better of scoring chances. The Blackhawks had one good chance go over the net, but on the Hurricanes side, Aho had a couple good chances, Foegele a couple more and Staal another early. The Hurricanes were finally rewarded when the team created a turnover at the defensive blue line that sprung Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas for a pretty passing play 2-on-0 and a Necas goal. The Hurricanes exited the first period with a 1-0 lead, a solid showing defensively and the upper hand overall.
The second period was mostly more of the same. The Hurricanes added to the lead when for the second consecutive game Andrei Svechnikov flat beat a goalie without a screen from a ways out. His ability to just beat a goalie without any help is that of the pure goal scorers like the Steven Stamkos of the world. Then Niederreiter would find himself in the middle of another scoring play when Wallmark sprung him for a breakaway that he finished. Through two periods the game was all one could ask for from a Hurricanes standpoint with the 3-0 lead.
After two periods, the Hurricanes were on the way to the team’s most complete game in some time. That path held for about two-thirds of the final period. I actually liked the Hurricanes third period up to the point where the score board turned. Early on, the Canes mixed a decent balance of making safe and simple plays and still attacking. Teravainen had a couple grade A chances on the same shift and the team pushed for a fourth goal. But once the Blackhawks cracked the score board, the game became a white knuckler of a finish. First, Erik Gustafsson scored on a perfect and timely Patrick Kane centering pass. When Connor Murphy somehow shot off of Petr Mrazek’s chest and in, the Blackhawks push was on. The Canes skaters never really did recover. The Blackhawks pushed hard down the stretch, and Mrazek rebounded and was the team’s best player down the stretch. Aho ended it with his third empty-netter of the season.
Player and other notes
1) Lucas Wallmark
The Daily Cup of Joe for Tuesday had the upcoming stretch of hockey as a fork in the road early in Lucas Wallmark’s career. With Erik Haula expected to be out for awhile and Wallmark elevated to the third line, I suggested that his ability to find a higher gear offensively could be the difference between settling in as a capable depth/fourth-line center versus possibly rising up to a higher level. Giving credit where it is due, Wallmark had a strong game offensively in game one post-Haula. His stretch pass sprung Niederreiter for his goal, and he also picked up a secondary assist when he was part of creating the turnover that sprung Necas and Niederreiter for Necas’ goal in the first period. Through one game, results are good.
2) Nino Niederreiter
As far as goal scoring upside heading into the second quarter of the season, Nino Niederreiter would be at or near the top of the list of players who could bring more based on 2018-19 production. He had had a nice pass to make sure the 2-on-0 was converted into an early goal. And in alone, he made no mistake in the second period. Here is hoping this game can prove to be a spark for the next quarter of the season.
3) Petr Mrazek (late)
He mostly faced a pedestrian set of shots through the first two periods but deserves credit for being perfect. He played a leading role in keeping this game from going very bad late in the third period. The Blackhawks second goal was an odd one that somehow went off Mrazek’s chest but still found the net behind him. But from that point forward he rose up. The Blackhawks used that goal to collect all of the momentum for the remainder of the game. With a power play and a couple other breakaway chances, the Hurricanes mostly had no answer. But Mrazek made a number of big saves to help the team survive and escape with a 4-2 win after the empty-netter.
4) Closer to the right way
Through two periods, this game was by far the team’s soundest game in recent memory. Gone were the odd man rushes that have plagued the team regularly of late. Even the third period was not as bad as the 0-2 score might indicate. I thought the Hurricanes were good up until the second goal. So maybe call it a solid 52-minute effort which is a step in the right direction.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a return home for a Thursday match up against the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena.