After an eight-day layoff, Friday’s game had a bit of uncertainty to it. That was reflected in my game preview that made mention of things like dialing up intensity, finding skating legs, shaking off rush, etc.
The start of the game was a bit sloppy which was probably unavoidable given the time off, but the Hurricanes did manage to find the pace and intensity level in the early going and rode that to an early advantage. Even when Vegas scored first, the Hurricanes did a great job of just sticking with it. After Vegas scored first on a power play blast by Shea Theodore, the Hurricanes answered when Nino Niederreiter notched his fifth goal in five games courtesy of a skilled soccer play by Justin Williams to kick the puck to him for a great scoring chance right out in front of the net. The first period would end in a 1-1 tie despite the Hurricanes having the upper hand for most of the period.
The second period saw another Hurricanes outburst. First, Brett Pesce had the puck find him and beat the goalie to put the Hurricanes up 2-1. The Shea Theodore would strike again to tie the game at 2-2. But Jordan Martinook finished a nice pass by Brock McGinn on a 2-on-1 late in the second period to stake the Hurricanes to a 3-2 lead entering the third period. The tide turned a bit late in the second period. Petr Mrazek played his best hockey on the night during that stretch to keep the Golden Knights off the scoreboard.
The third period saw Sebastian Aho pick a corner short side from in close to offer some breathing room. The Hurricanes then rode out the rest of the third period until Justin Faulk added an empty-netter to finish off a 5-2 win and launch duck-duck-goose for the storm surge.
The win was a good one. The Hurricanes had the upper hand through much of the game against one of the better teams in the Western Conference and also weathered the storm a bit when needed.
Player and other notes
1) Brett Pesce
He had the goal obviously, but more significantly, he was stellar defensively making a number of good plays in his own end.
2) Petr Mrazek
Timely and in tune is how I would describe Mrazek’s game on Friday. He had a really good sense for when Vegas had the upper hand in the latter half of the second period and did a tremendous job managing the game. He took whistles as often as possible to slow momentum and seemed to have just the right amount of scrambling and battling to make a save to match Vegas’ pushes.
3) Andrei Svechnikov
After too much invisible in between stick infractions in January, Svechnikov looked like he may have caught a second wind from the break. He looked a step faster and was more assertive trying to forge a path to the net with the puck on his stick. He was not rewarded on the score sheet, but the game was a step up nonetheless for Svechnikov.
4) Nino Niederreiter
He notched his fifth goal in five games since joining the Hurricanes. What stands out about his game is how consistently he hangs out in front of the net when he does not have the puck or something significantly better to do. Combine that natural instinct with decent hands and line mates who pass the puck and the result has been goal scoring. By no means will Niederreiter continue at a goal per game pace, but based on the good version of simplicity in his game, he figures to get a decent number of high-quality scoring chances and put a reasonable number of them in the net.
5) Sebastian Aho
He had his goal with a heady finish but could have had more on the night with a few other near misses offensively.
Next up for the Hurricanes is yet another Sunday matinee with a 2pm start that works well for a Canes hockey and Superbowl double header.