After consecutive wins against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, the Hurricanes faced a tougher test on Friday night playing a back-to-back against a good Columbus Blue Jackets team.
Per my the first point in my game preview, the Hurricanes started strong for the first time in a few games. Justin Williams had a steal and a scoring chance on the first shift, and the Canes surged from there. Williams with Lucas Wallmark and Victor Rask had a couple good shifts and scoring chances after Williams’ first chance. Warren Foegele beat All-Star Seth Jones cleanly for a good scoring chance and drew a penalty along the way. After the early flurry of chances and great saves by Sergei Bobrovsky and a post by Brock McGinn, the Hurricanes finally broke through when Sebastian Aho fed Micheal Ferland for a quick release and a goal that was more or less a power play goal despite coming a split second after it ended. Then a heady play by call up Greg McKegg led to Dougie Hamilton’s second goal in as many games. McKegg pushed over the offensive blue line with speed which made some space. Then he fed Hamilton behind him. Last, he cut across in front of Hamilton who fired through the set of bodies and beat Bobrovsky off his glove when he was a bit slow reacting likely because of the traffic in front of him. Curtis McElhinney was not tested as much as Bobrovsky, but he stood tall when needed to get the Canes into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
The Hurricanes scored again in the second period on a pretty pass and finish when Greg McKegg cut a path straight to the net coming off the bench on a line change and was hit in stride by a Brett Pesce pass that he deflected into the net. The game seemed to be on track for a comfortable win. Then John Tortorella pulled Bobrovsky, shuffled lines and seemed to light a fire under Artemi Panarin. The result was a Blue Jackets surge and two goals in short order late in the second period. The Hurricanes then spent the tail end of the second period under siege but managed to escape the second period with a 3-2 lead.
The third period saw Columbus push again early largely courtesy of Panarin. McElhinney was strong early and the Hurricanes seemed to at least untilt the ice as the period wore on and at least counter-punch. But the story of the third period was the Canes netminding this time courtesy of McElhinney. He posted a perfect third period despite Columbus pressing for a tying goal. Aho added an last second empty-netter to top off a big victory.
Player and other notes
1) Sebastian Aho
The game was not huge compared to some of his recent scoring outbursts, but his pretty pass right in Ferland’s wheel house was instrumental in making sure the Hurricanes were rewarded for their strong start. So riding Aho was the second point in the preview.
2) Depth scoring from Greg McKegg
And finally, the third point in my preview looked for depth scoring past Aho. That was provided first and foremost by Greg McKegg who had the the heady pass and screen on Hamilton’s goal and then followed up with a goal of his own. McKegg had another grade A chance stopped by Korpisalo in the second period bidding for his second goal. In addition, Hamilton provided a goal from the blue line for the second straight night. Couple that with the regular strong goaltending and decent or better defense, and the result is a 3-2 win.
3) Curtis McElhinney
Yet again, the Canes goaltending was a strength. McElhinney outplayed Bobrovsky who he was a backup to a few years ago. He was easily the team’s best player in the third period when the team was clinging to a 3-2 lead.
4) Strong play by a number of depth players
Though not all were rewarded on the score sheet, I though the Canes depth forwards had a strong game. McKegg has the headliner, but I thought all of Wallmark, Rask, Williams, Svechnikov and Maenalanen had strong outings.
5) Hamilton rising?
On Thursday, Hamilton had a big goal, but his play was a mixed bag overall with a couple minor penalties and a handful of lackadaisical plays with the puck. He scored again on Friday and was also better defensively. I have been beating the drum for a few games now that his physical engagement and desire to shoot the puck a ton could be a harbinger of better play on the way. I think Friday was a step in that direction, and the scoring should do wonders for his confidence and mojo.
6) Jaccob Slavin
Leading a defense that was generally solid again, Jaccob Slavin was arguably the best of the group. He logged a big 25:10 of ice time and made a number of good stick plays defending players off the rush.
Next up for the Hurricanes is an early 1pm start in Ottawa on Sunday that will make for three games in less than four days.