Celebrating his 21st birthday before heading off to the All-Star game, Noah Hanifin played in a game that had an extended stretch that looked very much like defense-free All-Star game play. And possibly as a preview for Sunday, he excelled in the wide open style of play.
The Montreal Canadiens started slow, and the Canes were flying early. The result was a quick 2-0 lead that could easily have been 4-0. The Hurricanes scored first when Justin Williams made a heady play to seal a Habs defenseman on the boards. The defenseman then coughed the puck up to Teuvo Teravainen. Williams quickly found his way back to the front of the net, retrieved an errant pass and then fed the puck back to Teravainen who finished. Also in the first period, Jordan Staal banged in a rebound from point blank range on a heady shot by Victor Rask. As noted above, the Hurricanes could easily have had another goal or two in the first period with Montreal sputtering.
But then entering the second period with a two-goal lead, the flood gates opened. In a span of 39 seconds, Montreal scored twice to tie things up. Then in the span of the next 48 seconds, the Hurricanes scored twice to go up by two again. The Canes scoring in the second period included a Teravainen finish on a sick breakaway move that beat Carey Price, and a Skinner tap in a Noah Hanifin rebound. The final goal was a Derek Ryan tap in on a rebound on Hanifin centering attempt to Skinner. When the dust settled on the wildest period of play in some time, the Hurricanes emerged with a 5-4 lead.
The third period largely followed the second period. Montreal attacked early, but Ward was sharp early to hold the fort. But Montreal did again tie the game at 5-5 at the midway point of the period, but just like in the second period, the Hurricanes struck back almost instantly in scoring only 10 seconds later to seize a 6-5 lead that would hold up.
Other than the offensive outburst, there is not much I would keep from the game that was mostly a loosely played track meet with poor attention to detail on both sides.
But especially coming off of consecutive losses, we are very much at the ‘Just win baby!’ stage of the season, and the game obviously gets high marks in that regard.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens
1) Results matter
The Penguins who currently possess the final playoff spot (adjusted for games played) also won pushing the cut line to +6 above .500, so the Hurricanes did not gain ground. But there are two silver linings. First is that keeping pace obviously beats falling farther behind. In addition, the Flyers and Devils lost, and the Rangers, Blue Jackets and Islanders are still playing on the west coast, so the Canes will gain ground on at least two and possibly five of the teams ahead of them.
2) Jeff Skinner and Teuvo Teravainen
I have recently bemoaned the fact that neither Skinner nor Teravainen had notched a goal since Aho has been out of the lineup.
On Thursday, Skinner notched his first goal since the bye week when he banged in a Noah Hanifin rebound. Past the goal, Skinner was buzzing all night but without much for results somewhat like the Detroit game last Saturday. Skinner had a couple really good scoring chances during the first period domination and then a couple more later. The key for him right now is consistency, sticking with it and steering clear of maintaining his attention to detail when not playing offense.
Teuvo Teravainen did even better scoring twice and adding an assist on a big three-point night. His pretty finish in along on Price is worth watching again.
3) Tough night for Brock McGinn
Brock McGinn has generally been reliable defensively in 2017-18, but he had a really rough night on Thursday. The second Canadiens’ goal saw McGinn miss Faulk with pass off the boards and instead feed Brendan Gallagher between the circles for a grade A scoring chance. McGinn also went to the less dangerous player (the one without the puck) up top on the Canadiens’ fourth goal that saw Jeff Petry gather the puck near the blue line and basically walk all the way to the front of the net unobstructed.
4) Similarly ‘meh’ for Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce
The Slavin/Pesce pairing was a mixed bag. They made a decent number of good plays in a helter skelter type game, but they also found themselves front and center for a couple goals against. The first goal saw Pesce seemingly hesitate or stop playing for a second which gave Hudon a tap in rebound goal from the crease with Pesce as the closest bystander. The Petry goal saw both of them back up to the front of the net as Petry slowly walked in to snipe a goal from point blank range. The missed assignment was on the forwards, but they also need to react and adjust at some point. And clinging to a one-goal lead late, both players seemed to be defending a high forward and lost track of the player behind them who ultimately scored. On a night when defense was at a premium, Slavin/Pesce were victimized as much as anyone.
5) Noah Hanifin readies for the All-Star game
After a bit of a dry spell scoring-wise of late, Noah Hanifin resumed his strong play offensively in 2017-18 in a big second period. Hanifin excelled in a He used his skating ability to join the rush offensively and in the process picked up two assists in what was a strong second period for him offensively and then added another in the third period. His game offensively continues to grow with more consistent play defensively being the only thing standing in the way of him becoming the scoring top 4 defenseman who would fit well behind Slavin/Pesce.
He and partner Trevor van Riemsdyk were plus 5 which more or less means that they somehow (and it was not all luck) were on the ice for just about all of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff.
6) Justin Williams
He, along with line mates Victor Rask and Teuvo Teravainen, had a strong game. His assist on the first goal was a perfect example of his heady play. Coming in on the forecheck, instead of taking a path at the puck/defender who arrived first, he instead took an angle to right in front of the Canadiens defenseman. Instead of the defenseman retrieving the puck, fending off a check and then continuing around the net where he was headed, Williams forced him to quickly reverse course at which point he turned the puck over to Teravainen. Then, instead of watching from there, Williams quickly made himself to the front of the net on the opposite side where a potential scoring chance could occur if the puck arrived. McGinn’s pass was a little bit off, but Williams just retrieved it and turned it into an assist to Teravainen instead. Williams just so consistently gets consecutive strings of little stuff right that often enough it results in something big (a goal).
7) Not a repeatable formula
As fun as the game was to watch (at times), the game was not one that the team would look to repeat. Loose defensive play and inability to tighten things up a bit with the lead both stood out as problematic. I almost have no idea what to say about Ward’s play. On the one hand, five goals against is not a pretty number, and perhaps he could have had another save or two. But on the other hand, he kept battling and his struggles were deeply intertwined with a game that was mostly a mess.
But in trying to claw back to 2-2 in the four games since the bye week and get into the All-Star break with a win, the game was a success.
Next up is a weekend break and then a home match up against Ottawa next Tuesday that starts the home run of 11 out of 12 games that I continue to say will ultimately decide the fate of the 2017-18 season.