With consecutive losses entering the road trip finale and minus Micheal Ferland, Jordan Staal and Curtis McElhinney against a hot Ducks team, the odds looked pretty good that the Canes would return home with nothing to show for the three-game road trip.
But with a nod to the unpredictability of NHL hockey, the Hurricanes rose up and claimed a big two points. Suddenly, utterly dismal was transformed to a bearable 1-2 road trip and a win heading home.
Early on, the game felt like a loss to me. John Gibson was on his game early, and the Hurricanes were sloppy. After I called for the young leaders to rise up, Sebastian Aho had a horrible turnover dribbling the puck out between the face-off circles in the defensive zone. And a shorthanded goal against saw a breakaway followed by the Hurricanes mostly falling asleep while Anaheim retrieved the puck and scored. Jaccob Slavin was front and center standing right next to the goal scorer but doing nothing to move him from the front of the net or defend him. With the Hurricanes recent scoring woes, the 1-0 deficit at the of the first period felt much larger.
But in the second period an unlikely hero arose to jump start the Canes. Looking at a one on one at the offensive blue line with nothing much doing, Clark Bishop turned on the afterburners to blow by a defenseman and forge a puck to the net in Erik Cole fashion. And just like with Cole, goodness happened once the chaos ensued. The play ended with Bishop being taken down and forcing the puck into the net with his leg/skate as he wrapped around the post like a horse shoe. After a review, it was correctly determined that the puck crossed the line before the net was dislodged. The Hurricanes seemed to catch a needed spark from the goal, but at 1-1 entering the third period, nothing had been accomplished yet.
The next hero to rise up was Brett Pesce who labeled a shot through a screen joining the rush from behind. Justin Williams would knock in some loose change to get the Canes up by two goals, and the penalty kill would mostly seal the deal by killing off an extended 5-0n-3 midway through the third period. The Ducks never really challenged after that. Sebastian Aho would add an empty-netter that seemed to stir up a minor fracas and the long flight home would be a happier one.
Player and other notes
1) Brett Pesce
He had a solid game defensively in only his second game back. He had one of the key plays on the 5-on-3 kill, and obviously the goal was huge. His strength is his defensive play, but timely goal scoring is incredibly valuable for this team right now too. Pesce only logged 13 minutes of ice time in a third pairing role but still managed to put his stamp on a big win.
2) Clark Bishop
His goal was a huge one and also prettier than the ending. He really did not have much with a defensman in front of him and in good position. Reasonable would have been to dump the puck deep and then go muck for it in the corner. So his burst of speed right around the defender was a strong attacking play. The end result was more of a cloud of dust than a work of art but beautiful nonetheless. He later chipped in an assist and a couple good defensive plays. I had him as the first star simply because of the magnitude of the goal he scored to push the Canes ahead.
3) Petr Mrazek
Mrazek did not see a ton of volume, but he was sound and solid. With the state of the team coming into the game, if Mrazek cracks for a couple goals early, this game very likely goes a different direction. With McElhinney seemingly on the shelf for a few games, Mrazek’s play in both games on this trip is incredibly encouraging.
4) Next man up
Sebastian Aho took a few more minutes with Staal out and is who everyone will want to talk about with Staal out. But I actually think Lucas Wallmark was quietly the story of getting by without Staal. Wallmark logged 18:07 in all situations and held his own which iwas good enough. Had Wallmark struggled in a bigger role, the game could have taken on a much different tone. Both Aho and Wallmark logged penalty kill ice time in filling the hole left by Jordan Staal’s injury.
5) The penalty kill
The penalty continued its strong run. Most significant was the 5-on-3 kill midway through the third period. Had Anaheim converted, the game would have been a one-goal white knuckler down the stretch.
Up next for the Hurricanes is a well-timed three-day layoff which hopefully gets the team closer to having a couple of players back. After the layoff, the Hurricanes return to home ice on Tuesday against a Toronto Maple Leafs team that is near the top of the NHL standings.