Stylistically, Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders was little different than Friday’s loss to Anaheim or a couple other recent losses. The Hurricanes struggled to generate much for good or better scoring chances, and the only goal that they scored was a random deflection off a defenseman’s stick from an odd angle for a goal that almost certainly was not finding the net otherwise. And on a couple really good chances with Brock McGinn’s goal mouth miss and a Sebastian Aho partial breakaway topping the list, the team seemed to be pressing a bit and missed.
Had an unlucky bounce or even worse a Canes miscue led to a late goal against and a regulation loss like in the Columbus loss last week, this game would have been another dismal and disappointing loss that plunged the team further into despair. But the outcome plays a huge role in painting an NHL game as positive versus negative, and that painting turned out beautiful in the end despite not at all being a work of art getting there.
The single biggest factor in the game was again James Reimer’s play.
As I said on Twitter right after the game ended:
Justin Williams will garner the headlines, but the biggest hero right now as @Canes try to gut it out has been James Reimer.
Canes have scored exactly 1 goal in each of his last 3 starts (not counting empty-netter), and he has converted that to a 2-0-1 mark for 5 big points.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 20, 2020
Somewhat similar to Curtis McElhinney during the down stretch in late November and throughout December in the 2018-19 season, Reimer has found a way to collect some points in games in which his team probably did not deserve it. Five points in three games is HUGE when the team scores exactly one goal per game (not counting the empty-netter).
Reimer was nearly perfect in yet another game where the team in front of him offered virtually nothing for goal support or margin for error. He made a few really good saves to keep the Canes in the hockey game late which set the stage for an exciting finish.
After an overtime that was actually a tiny bit lighter on excitement than normal, the shootout made up for it with a boat load of drama.
The Hurricanes claimed a lead when Andrei Svechnikov scored to start it off, and after a failed attempt by Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen put the Canes a shootout save away from victory. But the Islanders scored to extend the shootout. Canes’ misses by Martin Necas, Ryan Dzingel, Jaccob Slavin and Nino Niederreiter gave the Islanders for shots to win the shootout, but some combination of horrible ice conditions and James Reimer put the shootout eight players deep. The eighth shooter was none other than Justin Williams who of course scored to set off raucous applause and put the Canes on the way to a win after one more Reimer save.
The game more than any illustrates the results trump all else. I will skip a full recap today partly because I am tired at the end of a busy weekend day but also because the details for the game actually were not very good. And after three losses this week, best is to bask in a fun win in the first game with Justin Williams back in the lineup.
Up next is an empty the tank game for the Canes before the All-Star break against the Winnipeg Jets at PNC Arena on Tuesday.