For me one of the most understated transitions under Rod Brind’Amour is the bizarre feeling that overtime and shootouts are good things. Overtime in generally and especially the shootout seem to be a random coin flip. But for a decade, the coin flip seemed to be rigged against the Canes year in and year out. But suddenly overtime can be the fun it should be and net rewards in the standings too.
On Thursday, Petr Mrazek pushed to a perfect 6 for 6 making saves in the shootout, and Andrei Svechnikov scored the game-winner sniping a shot bar in.
But the game before that finale also had its share of hockey and entertainment value.
Reminiscent of game 3 of the playoff series against Washington, Warren Foegele boosted the team with an individual effort very early on. Only 50 seconds into the game, he won a physical battle against two Sharks behind the net, got some separation to make a passing land and found Andrei Svechnikov alone in front. Svechnikov went quickly from forehand to backhand and finished into the corner of the net. Foegele created another chance feeding Jordan Staal right between the circles. But the next goal came later when a passing play saw Jake Gardiner miss trying to defend and a pass and then have his man walk right in front of him to receive a return pass and finish into an empty net. The game became more spirited as the period wore on with a good volume of one on one battles especially in front of the nets. Shortly after the tying goal, the Hurricanes barely survived a San Jose power play. The remainder of the first period continued to be hotly contested. Teravainen had his second decent chance of the period, and he and Aho also worked together to generate another good scoring chance for Dougie Hamilton. But the period would end tied at 1-1.
The second period featured more of the same. The puck continued to be contested and both teams had a decent number of chances. The Hurricanes struck next when a pretty passing play between Foegele and Gardiner saw Gardiner finish off the rush to put the Canes up 2-1. Then it happened. Joe Thornton took an extra swipe as Mrazek was freezing a puck. Mrazek did not like it and took a swipe back, and the two came together. What figured to be a pushing match instead saw Thornton through punch with his glove on that dropped Mrazek to the ice, started a skirmish and drew the ire of the home crowd. The remainder of the period continued to be heated. San Jose would score in the waning seconds to tie the game and seize momentum heading into the third period.
After the Joe Thornton event and late San Jose goal, one had to wonder how the Hurricanes would react. The answer was just fine. While I do think the Sharks had the better of the third period by a modest margin shots were contested and nothing was easy such that Mrazek had a chance and stood tall when necessary. Both teams had chances but regulation ended with the game still tied at 2-2.
Overtime was entertaining as always. The Hurricanes had the better of the good number of chances but failed to score which sent the game to the shootout. After misses by Dougie Hamilton and Nino Niederreiter, Andrei Svechnikov scored to win the shootout 1-0.
Player and other notes
1) Andrei Svechnikov
I said in my game preview that games like this required leaders to step up and lead the way. Increasingly, Andrei Svechnikov is becoming one of those leaders. His pretty finish got the Hurricanes off to a good start. And his shootout finish converted the game to a win. He and fellow youngster Warren Foegele teamed to fuel the team’s best line for the night. One thing I will say is that Svechnikov passed on three different decent shooting chances late in the third period and overtime. With his ability to label shots like he did in overtime against Minnesota, he needs to err on the side of shooting too much and playing with the mentality of a pure goal scorer.
2) Warren Foegele
Not sure if he was Batman or Robin, but Warren Foegele was right in the middle of much of Svechnikov’s success. He continues to play to his identity as a physical forechecker and puck-hounding pest. Flanking Staal with Svechnikov and Foegele makes for a difficult line to handle physically and one that is good on the walls.
Especially in the first period, Aho’s line was better than scoring stats might indicate. Teravainen had two good chances and Hamilton another on an Aho/Teravainen passing play. Though it did not net anything on Thursday, I like the idea of giving Niederreiter another run with Aho. Getting him going would be a nice add to the the scoring options.
4) Petr Mrazek
He somewhat quietly had a strong game. The game had pace to it and a decent number of chances in close for San Jose. I thought Mrazek was especially good in the second period when the game was tied at 1-1.
5) Jake Gardiner
Good for Jake Gardiner netting a big goal in a close win. He had another defensive ‘oops’ early to continue a tough run, but hopefully the important goal will offer some reprieve and help him build some confidence.
6) Playing to the level of competition
After spending most of November playing down to the level of lesser competition, the Hurricanes have more recently proven capable of doing the reverse against better teams. The Hurricanes beat Tampa Bay, came really close against Boston and beat a San Jose team that has been playing well of late. The inability to make hay against lesser opponents is disappointing, but the ability to play up is a positive and bodes well for the playoffs if the Hurricanes return.
Next up is a Saturday home game against Minnesota before a five-game road trip.