After a tough 0-2-1 start to the week on the road, the Hurricanes entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay desperately needing a win to salvage a couple more points for the week.
The game was a match up between 2 teams that both played and traveled yesterday with the Hurricanes having a slight travel advantage by virtue of playing in the afternoon.
Recap of Hurricanes 1-0 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning
The first period actually had decent pace to it, but both teams checking well and getting in shooting lanes kept high-quality chances to a modest volume. Even with 2 power plays each, the first period ended pretty evenly in terms of shooting statistics and also equal at 0-0 on the score board. Both Cam Ward and Ben Bishop were sound and solid.
The second and third periods offered more of the same with a pretty even period that saw both teams generally defend well and the goalies take care of everything else. The 0-0 tie at the end of regulation obviously reflected a lack of scoring, but the game was not as lackluster as the score would indicate. Both goalies were solid, and the game pushed back and forth at a pretty good pace.
In regulation, the Hurricanes again played a game where it seemed reasonable to expect better. Jeff Skinner nearly beat Ben Bishop short side except for a strange save that saw the puck seemingly go off of Bishop’s shoulder and up into his equipment. Then in the third period Teuvo Teravainen beat Bishop only to the puck go off the post and then off of Bishop and almost but not quite into the net. Then in the third period, Skinner had another post from in close to go with another near miss on a Derek Ryan deflection on a Noah Hanifin shot.
With the Hurricanes playing reasonably well and catching no breaks, the stage seemed to be set for another late regulation or overtime loss on a Hurricanes miscue. Fortunately, that was not the case on Sunday. Just over 1 minute into overtime, Phil Di Giuseppe found himself with the puck on the wall in the offensive zone and some room to walk right in on Bishop. With Viktor Stalberg in front of the net, Di Giuseppe shot through Bishop and into the net for a 1-0 overtime win.
‘What I’m watching’ recap
In case you missed it and want to catch up, the game preview is HERE.
Since being front and center in the Hurricanes struggles in the first couple weeks of the season, Cam Ward has gradually built a 2016-17 season going. He has been the team’s best player since the home opener and was again in Sunday’s all-important win. Sunday’s effort was the kind that builds confidence as he was calm, sound and flawless for the entire game on a night when that is exactly what it was going to take to get a win.
2) Better defensive play
The Hurricanes had a handful of break downs but were better defensively and significantly avoided a third period dumpster fire. The story of the game defensively besides Ward was the continued strong play of the penalty kill that was a perfect 5 for 5 against the NHL’s best power play.
3) Home cooking=home scoring
The Hurricanes did not come through in this regard playing all of regulation without a goal before finally netting 1 in overtime. The team seems to be some combination of snake bit and squeezing the sticks really tight right now. The team continues to have both good chances that are misses and also bad luck like the posts and near misses on tips.
Steve Smith and the penalty kill: What Coach Steve Smith has done with the penalty kill is absolutely stunning. I do not mean to take credit away from the players who are obviously a significant part of the equation that has the Hurricanes sitting atop the entire league in terms of penalty killing. But as time goes by with the same results, Steve Smith’s share of the credit is growing. The reason is because of the volume of players involved. Over the past couple of seasons, there has been significant changeover of the players involved with no deterioration of results. Most recently, Smith lost Jordan Staal and then Elias Lindholm without the penalty kill missing a beat.
Sebastian Aho having same issue as a young Jeff Skinner: Skinner has become more consistent over time, but early in his career his game oscillated between spending a ton of time where goals happen in/around the slot area in front of the net and too easily being pushed to the perimeter. In watching Aho for almost a third of a season now, I think he might end up having the same challenge. Especially with the puck on his stick entering the offensive zone, Aho’s go-to move is to either slam on the breaks or do a tight loop just inside the blue line to buy time and look for a passing option coming down the middle of the ice. He has made a few pretty passes doing this, and it can be a good decision sometimes. But as opponents start to build up enough tape on him, it will become increasingly important that Aho learn how to push forward toward the net at least enough to vary his play.
Phil Di Giuseppe: Good for him. His start was slow offensively obviously, but his play was not horrible overall. His game has really rounded out of the course of the past couple years. But at the end of the day, a top 9 forward needs to produce offensively. I really like the idea of giving him a short run of games with Skinner/Rask. He was the wing with that duo in 2015-16 when the team was winning and when Skinner produced the most. Here is hoping that his overtime game-winner boosts his level of play at the same time he re-finds last season’s magic with Skinner/Rask.
Cam Ward: Impressive. Just so impressive right now.
End of Sunday run: On a personal note, I am thrilled the heavy run of Sunday home games is over. I have a standing Sunday early evening schedule conflict that has me catching up on the DVR after hours, watching the third period live first and then backtracking to watch the other 2 periods and most significantly unable to make it out to PNC Arena. Thank goodness the run of games is over for now though there are still 3 more Sunday home games on the schedule.
Next up for the Hurricanes is 2 days off before a quick burst of 3 games in 4 nights out west.