With a big win, the Hurricanes pushed their recent record to 6-1 and their Christmas week home mark to 2-0. In the process, the Hurricanes climbed to five games above .500.
With the Canadiens traveling during the day today as is allowed only coming off the holiday break or in odd circumstances, the Hurricanes had much more jump out of the gate. In dominating the first period, the Hurricanes outshot the Canadiens by a 16-6 margin. Only a strong period by Canadiens goalie Carey Price kept Montreal in the game early. Teuvo Teravainen ended a goal scoring drought dating back to November 19 when he finished after a nice keep in and pass from Justin Faulk. Despite controlling play for the majority of the first period, the Hurricanes were a bit sloppy in terms of attention to detail, but Ward was able to bail out the team in front of him on at least three occasions.
The second period saw the Canadiens play their way into the game and at least a small version of the Hurricanes’ second period woes. The Canadiens picked up the pace and dictated play more, and the Hurricanes had issues managing the puck. The result was a near reversal of the first period. Whereas the first period saw Carey Price doing all he could to keep his team in the game, the second period had Cam Ward with the heavier work load. The Canadiens eventually broke through when Alex Galchenyuk skated through somewhat lackadaisical defense by Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin off the rush and picked a spot beating Ward into the corner of the net off the rush. Both goalies continued their strong play, and the second period ended at 1-1 despite the fact that both teams had accumulated a good number of higher-end scoring chances through two periods.
The third period was a strong one for the Hurricanes on multiple levels. First, the Hurricanes scored on the power play and won the special teams battle (one power play goal scored versus zero given up) on the night, when Sebastian Aho scored on a second rebound after a Staal shot and Lindholm rebound chance. Second, the Hurricanes continued pushing instead of sitting on a 2-1 lead and had least as many good scoring chances as they gave up with the score 2-1. And then the Hurricanes ended things a bit early with an Aho empty-netter to seal the deal.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens
1) Results matter
Wednesday’s game was the second straight home game against a below average team. To the Hurricanes credit the team capitalized on both accounts.
2) Metro challenges
Unfortunately, the Islanders and Rangers who currently sit in the two wild card slots both matched the Hurricanes win on Wednesday, so the Hurricanes did not gain ground on either of the two teams directly above them in the standings. The Hurricanes still sit just two points (adjusted for games played)
3) Potentially underrated solid night from Cam Ward
Cam Ward’s 23 saves on 24 shots faced looks impressive in its own right, but I think he was even better than the relatively light work load would indicate. The Hurricanes puck management was intermittently shoddy, and the result in multiple cases was grade A scoring chances against. Through most of the first period Ward had little to do, but the shots he did face were all good chances. I am on record from early last week as saying that Cam Ward more than any other player right now had the chance to boost the team’s fortunes with a high level of play. That is exactly what is happening right now.
4) Puck management issues
The Hurricanes played well in terms of winning the puck, but the team had a tough night in terms of managing it. Jeff Skinner had a couple ‘iffy’ turnovers. Justin Williams had a few turnovers that are a not a normal part of his game. Noah Hanifin seemed unusually hesitant to push the puck forward with his wheels and had a few defensive zone turnovers from trying unsuccessfully to pass the puck forward. Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm each had a poorly-timed turnover late in the game with the Hurricanes clinging to a 2-1 lead. In total, only a few breaks, strong play by Cam Ward and possibly the Canadiens’ offensive struggles kept the puck management issues from translating to a tough night on the scoreboard.
If the team does not clean up its puck management issues for Friday’s game, the Pens are likely to make the Hurricanes pay with their forward lineup with better transition and finishing skills.
5) Teuvo Teravainen
After Teravaine’s recent, massive scoring outburst, some Canes thought it was a turning point. Instead, it has proven to be just another hot streak. But streaky scoring is not something that should be underappreciated. Here is hoping that Teravainen’s drought-breaking goal triggers his next scoring binge.
6) Key ingredients
The Daily Cup of Joe from earlier in the day featured a short holiday gift list. The top two items on the list were steady goaltending and improved special teams play. The two of those combined can be a powerful force in terms of tilting close games into the win column. Sure enough, the Hurricanes received strong play from Ward and were plus one on special teams. The combination was enough to push the game into the win column despite not catching much for breaks in terms of scoring.
7) Justin Faulk continuation offensively
Though he did not score a goal, Justin Faulk continued his offensive production with a heady assist that saw him first keep a puck in at the blue line, then quickly make a quick move to create a passing lane and then finally put the puck right in Teravainen’s wheelhouse for a goal.
Next up for the Hurricanes is an important divisional battle on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins who are sputtering a bit right now in the 2017-18 season.