After stumbling through the first two of three home games during Thanksgiving week, the Hurricanes entered Sunday’s match up against the Nashville Predators desperately needing any kind of win. And “any kind of win” is about what the Hurricanes got. The Hurricanes played a decent game – maybe not as dominant as stretches of the Maple Leafs game but still strong. But along the way, they had to fight through another goalie ‘oops’, two dangerously near misses by the Preds in the final minute, roughly three minutes of 4-on-3 penalty kill time in overtime and a dreaded shootout. But when the smoke cleared, the Hurricanes emerged victorious with a 4-3 victory. And especially after two tough home losses, results definitely mattered on Sunday in Raleigh.
The game was eerily similar to Friday’s loss against the Maple Leafs in that the Hurricanes were the better team in the first period but emerged with nothing to show for it when Viktor Arvidsson undressed Noah Hanifin with a one on one move and then beat Scott Darling to tie the game at 1-1 late in the first period.
When Matthias Ekholm scored on the power play on a shot that deflected off Brett Pesce and past Scott Darling who had no chance, the game seemed to be turning in the same direction as Friday’s loss. But only 1:05 later, Victor Rask collected some loose change in the crease and deposited it into the Nashville net to quickly get the Hurricanes back even at 2-2.
The third period was a wild one at times. Justin Williams scored first to stake the Hurricanes to a 3-2 lead, but it was erased when another Darling glove ‘oops’ put a juicy rebound on Kevin Fiala’s stick. Fiala quickly fed the puck across the crease to a waiting Craig Smith who made no mistake with his tap in goal. The goal knotted the game at 2-2 and set up a tense final ten minutes. The Hurricanes had their chances, and Nashville saved their two best for the final minute when Darling made one key save and Ryan Johansen lifted a pretty backhander barely up and over the crossbar.
Overtime was even wilder. Nashville received a power play courtesy of an ‘iffy’ Jordan Staal tripping penalty. The Predators spent most of a minute with the extra attacker on even before starting the power play. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce were solid during the sequence and Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen ultimately won the shootout 2-0.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators
1) Results matter
I have regularly used the phrase “results matter” during the 2017-18 season, but after two straight losses at home and staring at an extended run of road hockey, Sunday’s game had a X3 effect in terms of “results matter.” Good on the Hurricanes and its leadership for rebounding and grinding out a win.
2) A better blue line
On the whole the Hurricanes defense was much better. Jaccob Slavin played easily his strongest game in past week or so, and his partner Brett Pesce was solid too. Noah Hanifin did get undressed twice defending the puck from the face-off circle in, but even he played the type of mobile and aggressive game that I think he needs to play to reach his ceiling. Fleury just continues to be quietly solid more often than not even including the recent rough patch. He and partner Justin Faulk were also good.
3) The power play
Even before the all-important Justin Williams goal late, the power play looked very good on Sunday. The first power play did not score but saw the Hurricanes get a good number of chances, and that mostly carried over to the other attempts. Sunday’s game is a good illustration of how important special teams can be in deciding. I thought the Hurricanes were the better team on Sunday, but before the Williams’ power play marker the Predators had used a power play goal and perfect night on the penalty kill to be even at 2-2 despite the Hurricanes’ advantage. Williams goal evened things up on special teams which obviously played a role in the favorable outcome.
4) Scott Darling
Through 50 minutes, Darling had been beaten only by a well-placed shot after Arvidsson beat Hanifin and was in alone and a deflection off of Pesce on which he had no chance. Darling seemed to be closing in a solid 3-2 win when his issues with his glove reared their ugly head again. This time he had a shot go off his glove for a juicy rebound that found a Nashville stick and then quickly another via pass and then quickly the net behind Darling. In total, I think Darling had enough good saves to call it a decent night if he could just clean up the miscues that have plagued him in his past two starts. But his 2-for-2 in the shootout and the big win will hopefully boost his confidence and change his trajectory heading forward.
5) The fourth line early
Seemingly trying to get his team into the game without early problems, Coach Bill Peters more or less used the fourth line as his second line behind Staal’s through the first half of the first period. And with the pressure on to find a way into the win column Josh Jooris squeaked one through a leaky Jusse Saros to get the Hurricanes on the board and relieve pressure. Peters went away from them a bit as the game wore on, but by then the fourth line had made a significant contribution helping the Hurricanes get their feet under them and even added a goal to boot.
6) Faulk’s stick position on defense
Important to note is that Faulk, like the rest of the blue line, had a better game overall. That said, one of the most befuddling things about Faulk’s play are the plays where gets it right positionally and in terms of defensive assignment and is still beaten because of lack of awareness and/or figuring out angles and passing lanes. He has been in the screen shot for tap in goals in consecutive games both on plays where all he needed to do was pay even decent attention to detail in terms of using his stick to defend. On Sunday, Faulk was directly next to Craig Smith on his tying goal but had his stick on his forehand side and away from any possible passing lane (including the one that was exploited) into danger. The goal during which Cam Ward wandered from the crease against the Maple Leafs was not as blatant but similarly saw Faulk fail to get his stick to his backhand side such that he could use it to either tie up the goal scorer’s stick or possibly interrupt the pass.
7) Good for Victor
Victor Rask emerged from two games in the press box with the right attitude and eagerness to play. By being in the right place (near the crease) on Sunday Rask was rewarded with a goal and also added an assist and was the game’s first star. Good for him for using his temporary demotion the right way.
8) The road ahead
In a Daily Cup of Joe article last week, I broke the Hurricanes’ upcoming schedule down into two legs. The first was the three-game home stand that was just completed. Next up is an extended stretch of mostly road hockey before the Hurricanes again play a batch of home games during the holidays. Ten of the Hurricanes next twelve games are on the road starting on Tuesday night in Columbus.