In a game that will go down as a “remember that one time” game despite the fact that no one was there to witness it, a Hurricanes squad that was missing five regulars to the COVID list and playing after a nine-day layoff most of which was without practices, beat the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in overtime.
Maybe most surprisingly, the story is not really one of an overmatched Canes team pulling out a surprise win despite being outplayed. By no means were the Hurricanes dominant, but they traded punches with a good hockey team in a game that was better than the scoreless regulation. Maybe even more surprising is that the despite having a bit of a makeshift lineup and not a lot of ice time recently, there really was not much for signs of rustiness. The Hurricanes were the better team by a decent margin in the first period before ceding momentum a bit in the second period.
The overtime game-winner was a beauty. First, Sebastian Aho and Dougie Hamilton managed to wear out the Lightning players on the ice with a heady bit of overtime puck possession. Then Jordan Staal hopped over the boards and made a pretty pass to Martin Necas who ended the game with an equally skilled finish. The game also had the good vibes of a player (Steven Lorentz) making his NHL debut and a few other players who figured to be at the AHL level getting NHL ice time. Television is obviously not the same as being there in person, but all in all Thursday was a tremendous 2020-21 home opener even if it was delayed by more than three months and even postponed from originally scheduled.
Player and other notes
1) Petr Mrazek
Not mentioned above is Petr Mrazek whose zero goals against obviously played a significant role in collecting a win. As I said above, the 0-0 score through three periods overstated the volume of offense. Each team had a decent number of medium or better chances, but each team also had a goalie who was sharp and on his game.
2) The reinforcements
The four players making 2020-21 NHL debuts because of the Canes players in COVID protocol performed well and did not look out of place. Most notable was probably Steven Lorentz logging 14:41 of ice time on a line with Jordan Staal whose path he followed in junior hockey. Jake Bean also had a solid game. He was not noticeable defensively (in a good way) most of the night, made a couple good defensive plays with his stick and did have one shift where he played rover in the offensive zone and came reasonably close to making something happen. Sheldon Rempal and Max McCormick did not garner as much ice time on the fourth line, but they were also up to the task. Credit also to Rod Brind’Amour for immediately making the group part of the regular rotation and not trying to get by for a game using only 15-16 players.
3) Sebastian Aho
Despite not cracking the score sheet, I thought Sebastian Aho had an especially strong game. He has really matured as a player in the sense that he is not only good when he is filling up the score sheet.
I have in the past been hard on Jake Gardiner when I thought his play deserved it. With Jaccob Slavin out of the lineup, Gardiner moved up in the top 4 playing alongside Brett Pesce and had a strong game. Gardiner’s 21:41 of ice time was second only to Pesce’s 25:11.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a two game home set against the Dallas Stars who are 3-0 after a COVID-delayed start. Get your tickets for Saturday…never mind…See you on Twitter!