Recap of Hurricanes wild 8-6 win over the Vancouver Canucks
The Hurricanes return home on Tuesday night fell roughly within the boundaries of a standard NHL hockey game through 1 period. The game was a bit loose at times, but the 2-1 score at the end of the first period was within the realm of normal. Jeff Skinner notched a power play goal and Sebastian Aho a rebound goal for the Hurricanes. And Sven Baertschi added a goal to make it 2-1 when the period was over.
From that point forward, “absolutely wild and bizarre” would be a massive understatement for what transpired over the remaining 2 periods. First, the Hurricanes forgot that they were at home and that it was only the second period and put up horribly bad period that rivaled the worst of their third period debacles on the road. After starting the period up 2-1, the team was inexplicably down 4-2 only 9 minutes later and gave a fourth goal in the period at the 14-minute mark. The period was more of a less a brutal clinic on what happens when defensemen fail to take away passing lanes to the front of the net and forwards are a step slow covering the hold left behind those defensemen. One after another, the Canucks centered pucks for point blank chances. As I said in a recent post, Ward has generally been good when the team gives him a reasonable game but has been unable to do much to help when the team is collapsing in front of him. The second period was heavy on the latter. After yielding the third goal, Ward was pulled in favor of Michael Leighton who had little answer for the mess in front of him either. He gave up the second 2 goals in the second period. The Hurricanes did push back a bit at the end of the period, but were unable to score and exited the second period with what seemed like an insurmountable 5-2 deficit.
But as luck would have it, the Hurricanes timing was off. They put forward their atrocious third period 1 period too soon which left 20 minutes of hockey still in front of them. And those 20 minutes of hockey rival anything we have seen at the PNC Arena in a single period. Jeff Skinner scored quickly on a power play early the period which jump started the team. The Canes then played the next 5 minutes in a wild fury that looked like a 7-on-4 power play and were rewarded for what seemed like 3 extra players on the ice. First, Ron Hainsey scored through a Derek Ryan screen. Then Victor Rask finished on Derek Ryan’s second pretty passing play of the period. Then Justin Faulk blasted in a goal.
Less than 6 minutes into the third period, the Hurricanes had scored 4 goals to erase a 3-goal deficit and take a 6-5 lead. At that point, I commented that it felt like it would take 8 goals to win. Sure enough the Hurricanes scored again – this time Jordan Staal – only to see Brandon Sutter tighten things up at 7-6 late. Lee Stempniak’s empty-netter made 6 goals in the period, pushed the Canes to an 8-6 lead and mostly assured the wild night would end with a Canes win.
After arriving home, I swear that I had to check the Canes web site to make sure it all really happened.
‘What I’m watching’ check points
If you missed it and want to catch up, you can find the game preview HERE.
1) Pace, intensity and attacking mentality in East Coast return
The game was a roller coaster. The Hurricanes started on time as they have pretty consistently during the entire season even in the bad outings. But in the second period I questioned whether the Canes just netted a couple early goals to camouflage the common sluggish first game back home. But then the third period they looked like they were on fire. It is unclear whether they just had an up and down game, whether someone lit a massive fire under them during the second intermission or whether it was just some bizarre hockey full moon game. Regardless, the Hurricanes passed for 2 periods and failed massively for the other.
2) Jordan Staal
He resumed his regular role as a shutdown center, took most (maybe not quite all) of what he would usually be allotted for ice time and looked pretty good given his 2-week lay off. He notched a goal and an assist and did plenty of his regular work winning or separating opponents from pucks in the defensive zone. All in all, it was a solid return to the lineup for Staal.
3) Skinner time
He had a big and also timely night offensively. He had a power play goal to get the Canes out of the first period with a lead and then the all-important power play goal early in the third period to pull the Canes to within 5-3 and also breathe life into a game that seemed dead after the second period.
As has been the case in 3 of the last 4 games now, the team broke down massively in front of Cam Ward, and he had very little for support to help hold things together. On Tuesday, Ward was the victim of poor defensive coverage on a couple goals but arguably could have been better even given the tough situation. To be clear, all 3 of the goals that Ward allowed featured an inability to cover players in the front of the crease (bad on the defense) but 2 also featured Cam Ward unable to take away shooting angle at close range. On the first Canucks’ goal, Ward lost track of where the puck was and was seemingly beat through a hole. The third goal featured the puck being whacked off his pad twice before being poked in. Ideally, he freezes the puck there. I think the game very much fits with the story all season. If/when the Hurricanes play a decent hockey game and give Ward a fair chance, he has been great. When the team in front of him stinks and needs him to bail them out of too many messes, he has not always had a ton of answers. In the other half of the game, I would similarly rate Michael Leighton as ‘meh’ for his 3 goals in half of a game as well.
Derek Ryan: I had him as the first star. He played a key role in all 3 of the Canes goals early in the third period as they stormed back. He made pretty and fast feeds to Skinner and Rask for grade A scoring chances that resulted in goals, and Ryan was also the screen on Hainsey’s seeing eye shot through traffic. On a night when many players had strong nights offensively, I rate Ryan’s effort first by a small margin largely because of the timeliness. Ryan has very quickly transitioned from being a temporary fill in who would hopefully be adequate in Staal’s absence to a player who is leading the way offensively.
Faulk/Hainsey: On a night made for offense, they led the way from the back end with a goal each to go with 2 assists for Faulk. And in the midst of the bevy of break downs in the second period, the pair was mostly out of the picture. In a nutshell, the duo continued its higher level of play on home ice.
Hanifin/Tennyson: With Hanifin taking more of the direct blame, the third pairing had a rough night. Two of the Vancouver goals featured Hanifin and Tennyson failing to stop a pass to the front of the net and to some degree (though that was more on center) failing to defend a player in front of the net. Both plays saw Hanifin sort of in the right neighborhood but not sorting things out defensively. Hanifin was also the defenseman that Brandon Sutter walked right around in carving a path from the far boards to the front of the net for the Canucks’ sixth goal.
Skinner/Rask/Ryan: Already noted above is Derek Ryan, but I think it is important to also note that his strong performance came as a right wing with the Skinner/Rask combination (with 2 of the scoring plays coming on the power play). Ryan is red hot right now and brought a playmaking element to the line. Each of the 3 players finished with 3 points on the night.
FUN!: I cannot imagine how anyone in attendance did not enjoy that game. One can quibble about the imperfectness of goals via weak defense, but at a basic level goals are fun. Goals in bunches are even more fun. Come on NHL! Find a way to open the game up more and generate more scoring.
Next up is an odd home X2 back-to-back with the Capitals at PNC Arena on Friday night followed by the Sabres on Saturday night.