Just like the rest of the road trip, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but the result in the finale was what the team needed. In a strange game that featured some of the most boring hockey of the entire season (the second period) followed immediately by one of the wildest periods of hockey all year in the third period, the Hurricanes fought their way to a 5-4 overtime win and a respectable 2-2-2 record for the long six-game road trip.
As has generally been the case even in the disappointing games, the Hurricanes played a decent first period but really were not rewarded for it. The Sabres seemed to find their way into the game courtesy of a couple power plays that jolted them to life despite not netting goals.
With both teams having a poor track record in the second period, it played out almost as if both teams were trying to cautiously slide past it without incident. The Hurricanes scored first when Justin Williams banged in a rebound, but the Sabres answered in short order when Jack Eichel scored the first of his three goals. The period ended 1-1 probably with many a fan dozing off after a couple late nights earlier in the week.
But for every bit that the second period was boring, the third period was exhilarating even if not necessarily of the highest quality. Buffalo pushed up 2-1, but Jordan Staal scored a big answer goal to quickly make it 2-2. From there, the Hurricanes ran out to a 4-2 lead seemingly on their way to coasting to a win. Then Jack Eichel took over the game and carried the Sabres back to 4-4 and pushed the game to the Hurricanes’ fourth overtime game out of six on the current road trip.
The overtime session seemed destined to follow a pretty familiar negative pattern with the Hurricanes controlling possession and getting shots early only to not finish and instead lose. When Evander Kane picked up a Jordan Staal shot that missed the net, he was off to the races. But the hockey gods shined down, and the puck rolled off his stick just as he was about to shoot and found Ward’s outstretched pad on the way to the net. Shortly thereafter, Jaccob Slavin stepped between the circles to receive a nice pass from Elias Lindholm and close out the road trip with a win.
I said at the beginning of the start of eight of nine games on the road, that 5-4 would be a solid even if unspectacular outcome. I stand by that assertion. And though there are no guarantees and there is still work to do, that 5-4 mark is still within reach.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres
1) Results matter
Following a theme that I have used regularly this season, the results often trump all else. Friday’s win was not pretty or really a model for future wins, but it was a win nonetheless. And as stated above 2-2-2 is a decent mark for the six-game road trip.
2) Cam Ward
Because he allowed four goals, his play will probably be underestimated. Just like the rest of the team, he kept battling. And despite the fact that the Hurricanes theoretically had an advantage with the night off on Friday, whatever advantage the Canes might have had evaporated as the game wore on.
3) Clutch scoring from less likely sources
In consecutive games, the Hurricanes have received game-winning offense from unlikely sources. On Tuesday, it was Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe in the shootout. On Friday, it was Jaccob Slavin in overtime.
4) Justin Williams leading the way
Not counting the strange Marcus Kruger goal, Williams’ goal in the second period marked the third straight Hurricanes goal that resulted from Williams playing hockey at the top of the crease. I think his lieutenant Brock McGinn is already on board. Hopefully the rest of the team is taking notes on what happens when you spend time at the top of the crease.
5) Balanced scoring outburst
When things were most recently going well, the Hurricanes were mostly riding a massive scoring surge from Aho/Staal/Teravainen. Since that cooled, the Hurricanes have again, intermittently had trouble finding enough sources of offense. Hopefully Friday’s game is a step in new direction in terms of scoring balance. On the night, five different players (Staal, Williams, Ryan, Aho, Slavin) had two points on the night.
Next up is a quick turnaround and a return to PNC Arena on Saturday night after nearly two weeks on the road.