After a tough loss late in the game the night before, one might have wondered how the Hurricanes would react with a quick turnaround for a game the next night. While the first period was not the best that the team has played of late, the team did not seem to suffer any ill effects from the night before. Midway through the period, the hockey gods continued a strong run coming to the Canes aid. A harmless Micheal Ferland shot somehow went off the back part of the top of the net and found its way back to the crease where the a Buffalo defenseman scored an own goal which was credited to Ferland. The resulting 1-0 lead would hold until the final minute of the period when Jeff Skinner scored a pretty power play goal batting a puck out of mid-air and into the net to tie the game 1-1. Especially after playing and traveling the night before while Buffalo rested in Raleigh, the Hurricanes had to be happy with the 1-1 tie heading into the first intermission.
The Skinner goal to close out the first period seemed to kick off a burst of scoring. Early in the second period, a great individual move by Justin Williams saw him open a lane to the net and finish up off the cross bar and in. But Buffalo struck back only 30 seconds later when Jason Pominville labeled a shot for the top half of the net. Then the Canes pushed back up 3-2 when Sebastian Aho threw the puck into traffic from the corner. The puck went off the skate of a Buffalo defender and in with Teravainen creating the chaos in front. After a quieter stretch, Aho scored the Canes fourth goal of the game off that was more or less an own goal off of a Buffalo player when a wraparound rebound attempt found a skate and then the net.
With a two-goal lead entering the third period, the Hurricanes mostly chugged forward through the third period without much incident. But the game became interesting when the hockey gods returned at least part of the favor when Buffalo scored with just over three minutes remaining. But the Hurricanes and McElhinney finished strong after that to hold on for a 4-3 win and another great Friday in black with a storm surge at the end.
Player and other notes
1) The hockey gods and the bounces
The Ferland goal in the first period was bizarre going off the back part of the top of the net and somehow finding its way back to the front of the to get batted in by a Sabres defender. Then both of Aho’s goals were shots not on the net that caromed off Sabres’ skates and in. Combined with the couple offside challenges earlier this week, and at least temporarily the bounces have turned in the Canes favor.
2) Another big goal for Williams
Justin Williams continued his run of netting big goals during the Canes recent surge with his pretty snipe early in the second period.
3) Sebastian Aho
Fortuitous bounces played a significant role in his big night, but his two goals on the night of Jeff Skinner’s return were well-timed. The game was that Aho had a huge night on the score sheet with two goals and a plus four, but the statistics were a bit of an anomaly in that three of the goals were knocked in by Sabres defensemen and the fourth goal was actually netted by an individual effort by Justin Williams on a partial change. Nevertheless, the results were well-timed with former Canes offensive star Jeff Skinner returning.
4) Micheal Ferland returns to Aho’s line
As noted above, the Aho line’s big night was as much the result of lucky bounces than a surge by the trio, but I still like the decision to return Ferland to Aho’s line. Aho will benefit from having a power forward and a receive/shoot winger, and Ferland’s finishing ability on those receive/shoot opportunities is significantly better than McGinn’s or other options. Ferland was in the middle of all of it with three points on the night. Here is hoping that Brind’Amour sticks with this trio and that it can return to the same level of play and production as before Ferland’s injury.
5) The blue line
The headline of the Hurricanes defense has rightfully been the solid goaltending, but the role that the blue line is playing should not be lost. De Haan and Faulk meshed pretty well from the beginning. Slavin and Pesce have picked up where they left off in the pass since being reunited. And Hamilton has been surging offensively with slightly less responsibilities in a third pairing role with van Riemsdyk.
6) The climb resumes
With the win over the Sabres who were sitting in the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the Hurricanes pulled to within five points of the cut line. There is still work to do, but little by little the Hurricanes are climbing the ladder again after December’s nasty fall.
Next up for the Hurricanes is another matinee 12:30pm start on Sunday afternoon at PNC Arena against the Nashville Predators.