As luck would have it, I was pulled away for family stuff midway through the last of the west coast part of the Canes road trip and watched the second half of the game on DVR even later than the regular schedule. Like many other Hurricanes fans, I will be happy to be back in the Eastern time zone this weekend but am happy I stayed up for the western finale.
Above all else…
…The Hurricanes desperately needed a win of any kind, so the result is HUGE. With the Hurricanes sputtering on the road, and the majority of the Metropolitan Division playing well, the season was starting to slide down the hill. The Hurricanes know from recent experience just how hard it is to make up too much ground in January through April if you dig a hole, and digging a hole is exactly what they have been doing of late. At least on Tuesday, the Hurricanes were able to dig a foot into the ground and at least temporarily halt the slide. Everything else is minutiae compared to the top line result at a time like this.
Cam Ward wins #300
The other big headline is Cam Ward earning his 300th career win which is an impressive milestone and even cooler when one considers that all of those wins have been in a Hurricanes uniform. Ironic that win #300 came via shootout win just like win #1 many years ago.
The game itself
The game was a gutsy effort by the team. Having played and traveled the night before, Vegas entered with a physical edge, but the Hurricanes matched intensity and pace through most of the game. In retrospect, perhaps the odd Marcus Kruger goal that saw him double deflect a pass while forechecking and have it end up behind Marc-Andre Fleury before he knew what had happened.
But then things returned to the bad version of recent normal when the Hurricanes yet again lost the second period by a 2-1 margin. When the Hurricanes outshot the Golden Knights by a 15 to 6 margin in the third period but were not rewarded, it was hard not have an ominous feeling entering overtime and an even more ominous feeling when the game entered the dreaded shootout. But the hockey gods looked down on the Hurricanes who needed a win and Cam Ward seeking his 300th win and threw us a bone. The Vegas mostly fired wide with Ward in good position at one end of the ice surface, and depth players Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe scored huge goals to win the shootout.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights
With the back-to-back, it is maybe no surprise that youthful Noah Hanifin had his skating legs, and Peters recognized it. Hanifin vaulted up the blue line ice time rankings logging the third most minutes and finishing only about 30 seconds behind leaders Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe
One cannot say enough about how clutch the McGinn and Di Giuseppe shootout goals were. Had McGinn missed in the Hurricanes’ third attempt down 1-0, the team would wake up tomorrow with a five-game losing streak, win-less on the road trip, carrying a growing overtime monkey on their backs and just generally in a bad place. Instead, McGinn scored to keep the team alive. Two shooters later Di Giuseppe finished and broke into a great version of his usual goal celebration. Hockey is a team game obviously, but it is not outlandish to say that the duo earned the team a point in the standings on Tuesday.
Ward gave the team a solid outing and a chance to win which it ultimately did. Just like the team in total needed to put an end to a slide, the goalie position did as well. Here is hoping that Ward’s game on Tuesday puts a stake in the ground and starts the next move upward for the Hurricanes’ goaltending.
He continues to play better hockey after his short stint in the press box. Kudos to him to responding favorably to what was probably a low point of his tenure in the NHL.
Not counting the bizarre Kruger goal, the Hurricanes have scored exactly two goals in the past two games. Both have featured Justin Williams creating chaos at the top of the crease. On Monday, a Williams’ tip netted a goal. On Tuesday, he managed to create a mess in front of the net before the puck ultimately found Trevor van Riemsdyk for a quick finish. Here is hoping that the coaching staff is showing this video over and over aiming to increase the volume of time that the team spends near the crease for the entire forward lineup.
With the win the Hurricanes are suddenly 1-2-2 through five of six games on the road. With the finale against a Buffalo Sabres team that continues to struggle, a .500 road trip is suddenly within reach. It has not been easy or pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but if the Canes can scratch and claw their way to 2-2-2 on a tough trip, the 2017-18 season that was on life support just might improve.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a game in Buffalo on Friday night and thankfully for Hurricanes fans a return to normal east coast start times.