After a well-played 3-0 over a likely playoff-bound Arizona Coyotes team on Friday night, all that stood between the Canes and a solid 5-2 home stand was a win over the somewhat lesser Los Angeles Kings on Whalers night.
Despite the disadvantage of a playing a back-to-back (at least without travel) against a rested team, the game looked favorable on paper. But anyone who knows NHL hockey knows that parity rules, the gap between any two teams is small and therefore upsets, if you can even call them that, happen regularly.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings
Early on, the Hurricanes matched Los Angeles and even had the upper hand. When the hockey gods deservedly rewarded Nino Niederreiter by giving him a second try after he passed up a shot at a half-open net from five feet away, the Canes were up 1-0. The Canes had the better of play by a modest margin for the first roughly 10 minutes of play. Los Angeles seemed to gain momentum as the period wore on, and the Canes had a couple turnovers in the first period that forced James Reimer to stand tall. And stand tall he did. The Hurricanes would exit the first period with a 1-0 lead.
The second period saw the Kings continue to gain steam. The Hurricanes defended pretty well to minimize the quality of chances, but the Kings had the better of most of the second period. Reimer continued to be flawless as the Kings started to pile up shots. The shot totals nearly reversed in the second period with Los Angeles posting a 14 to 8 advantage but no goals to show for it.
The third period was more of the same. The Hurricanes mostly avoided the bad kind of turnovers that end up in the back of the net without the goalie having a chance, but again they struggled to match the Kings. The Canes spent much of the period making simple plays to advance the puck and change lines but had only a handful of even decent chances. Los Angeles pushed, fired 17 shots on net, came close late including a post but never dented Reimer despite piling up 41 shots. Teravainen added an exclamation point into an empty net in the waning seconds to make the final 2-0 and teeing up Brass Bonanza in victory.
Player and other notes
1) James Reimer
My game preview suggested that Reimer was the likely starter despite Mrazek’s shutout and also suggested that this start was an important one for him coming off of a tough outing on Tuesday despite winning 5-4. Reimer was perfect on a night with no margin for error and deservedly claimed the first star. After a bumpy week or so for the Canes goaltending, the Hurricanes enter next week with each goalie on top of his game at least for one game with the duo posting back-to-back shutouts.
2) Nino Niederreiter
After busting a stick on the boards after a near-miss on a good scoring chance on Friday, one had to wonder if Niederreiter would break out or just break more sticks. The volume of monkeys flying off his back after his first period goal were enough that fans could not see the replay on the scoreboard. His game still has too many penalties maybe because he is trying too hard, but the offensive part of his game has been coming of late. He is working hard in the offensive zone, getting chances and generally (except oddly before his goal on Saturday) shooting the puck a lot. That is a good recipe for reverting back to some kind of mean for shooting percentage and goal scoring.
3) Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal quietly had a strong game. He spent a good amount of time matched up against Anze Kopitar’s line and just generally had one of those games where he made plays in all three zones to keep the other team from scoring.
4) The fourth line
The fourth line continues to play well. Martinook and McGinn have not scored a ton of late, but that line is not a liability when it is on the ice. Their formula recently is to make simple plays to get the puck into the offensive zone and then to battle like mad to keep it there for the rest of the shift. They have been pretty successful with that objective which for the most part keeps them from having to play too much defense…which is the best kind of defense.
5) Results matter
In many of my recaps I dissect games and have fairly regularly giving ‘meh’ ratings even to wins lately. But though the objective is always to keep improving, results trump all else. In that regard, two points on Saturday, a two-game winning streak and 10 out of 14 points for the home stand all receive high marks.
The week ahead is a challenging one at least based on how the 2019-20 season has gone. The Canes face three Metropolitan Division foes (Capitals, Blue Jackets, Islanders) sandwiched around a game against the Ducks. It is time for the Hurricanes to empty the tank with five more games in the span of nine days before nine days off for the All-Star break and bye week.