If it was still 2018, Sunday’s game against the Calgary Flames would have been a resounding 5-2 win. But unfortunately, three of the goal scorers are now former Canes, and the result was instead a 4-3 loss with goals against by former Canes Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan and Noah Hanifin.
As has been the case in recent matinees, the Hurricanes had the edge early on with an advantage in puck possession, shots on goal and to a modest degree scoring chances. The Hurricanes were rewarded early when the forecheck generated a tic-tac-toe scoring play. First, Teuvo Teravainen hounded the puck on the wall. The puck then found Sebastian Aho who fed it across to Micheal Ferland who then returned it to Teravainen for a pretty But the Hurricanes were unable to dent the score board when they had the upper hand and Calgary ultimately struck first on the power play when a seemingly harmless point shot glanced off Elias Lindholm’s leg and into the net. The Hurricanes strong start was interrupted by a couple penalties that helped Calgary climb into the game in terms of puck possession and ultimately tied the game when a power play point shot glanced off of Elias Lindholm’s leg and into the net. Through one period, the Hurricanes had the advantage at even strength but the Flames’ special teams evened things up at 1-1.
The front part of the second period was a bit sloppy and disjointed in both directions but more even in terms of play. Once Calgary got up to speed, they capitalized to the tune of goals quickly. First, former-Cane Derek Ryan scored on a wraparound when Petr Mrazek overcommitted a bit to the short side and was unable to recover or get help from a defenseman on the far side. Next, Calgary scored a back breaker shorthanded when Teravainen failed to corral a puck at the point which led to a 2-on-1. Justin Faulk was unable to take away the passing lane late, and Ryan was again the nemesis as he threaded the needle with a pass to the back door for a tap in. But instead of packing up early to go to a Super Bowl party, the Hurricanes stuck with it. The team had at least four dominant shifts in the second half of the second period but at least initially rewarded. Just when it looked like the late second period surge would not yield results, Lucas Wallmark found Dougie Hamilton who sniped a goal from the right face-off circle to pull the Hurricanes within 3-2 exiting the second period.
The third period started a bit choppy just like the second period, but the Hurricanes gained some momentum as the period wore on. A couple things were pulling in different directions. On the one hand, the Hurricanes put on pressure, were buzzing in the offensive zone and had the advantage in terms of puck possession again. But the Flames did a great job of keeping the Canes from converting puck possession to a number of grade A chances. In addition, though the Hurricanes had more control of the game, they were prone to a few too many break downs that forced Mrazek to repeatedly bail them out. The last of the three former Canes struck when Noah Hanifin scored a controversial goal as Mrazek was trying to get back in net after being bumped out of the crease by James Neal who had previously driven the puck to the net. A challenge and review saw the goal stand and the Caniac faithful boo with displeasure. To their credit, the Hurricanes did not quit, and when Sebastian Aho scored with just under a minute to go, the team had a chance again. But the Hurricanes were unable to muster much in the final minute and ultimately fell 4-3.
Player and other notes
1) Chippiest game of the year?
The game was spirited and arguably chippy throughout. The chippy list includes Justin Williams getting tangled up with Sean Monahan and in the middle of multiple mini-scrums after the whistle. Sebastian Aho and Derek Ryan traded quick stick jabs after the whistle. Elias Lindholm whacked Dougie Hamilton right after the final whistle. Jordan Martinook came close to getting into a fight defending Andrei Svechnikov and was also in the middle of a few post-whistle discussions. Aho and Hanifin ran at each other on the boards on the same shift. And so on. Be it the early start, the familiarity of players on both sides or the fact that the teams played last week, the game could make a case for being the most chippy of the season.
2) Degradation of defense
Petr Mrazek made a high number of high quality saves but still gave up four goals on a modest number of shots. That is a reflection of too many defensive break downs for the Canes. Faulk failed to take away the pass on a 2-on-1 for a tap in goal. De Haan similarly failed to defend a 2-on-1 but Mrazek saved that one. Maybe partly because they were chasing the score board, the Canes were a bit loose defensively. Part of that might also be the Flames who are good, but it is still worth watching.
3) Sebastian Aho
He had yet another strong game offensively and seems dangerous each and every time he has the puck on his stick. What stands out most about his game is ability to make time and space with his skating ability most notably his ability to cut at sharp angles and still maintain enough speed to beat defenders.
4) Special teams
In a game where the Canes had the upper hand for many stretches, special teams were the difference. Calgary scored on the power play and shorthanded.
5) Micheal Ferland and Teuvo Teravainen
Both had strong games mostly separated from Aho (though Aho did factor in Teravainen’s goal). That is encouraging in terms of having two balanced scoring lines for the upcoming road trip if Brind’Amour wants to play it that way.
Next up is a five-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Pittsburgh.