On Saturday, the Hurricanes jumped out of the gate, benefited from some soft goaltending early and then rode a pretty strong effort across 60 minutes of hockey to pull out a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators. The win pushed the Canes point streak to 6 games and pushed the Canes to 3-0-2 in their last 5 games at home.
Recap of Hurricanes 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators
To use Bill Peters’ terminology, the Hurricanes started on time on Saturday night. Only 29 seconds into the game, Jordan Staal scored before the Predators even realized that the game started. Jaccob Slavin picked up a soft clear at the blue line and as he has been doing with regularity lately, Slavin got a well-timed, well-placed shot past the defender in front of him and within range of a team mate in front of the net. Staal tipped it and it sneaked through Juuse Saros’ pads to give the Canes an early lead. From early on, the Hurricanes were able to get the puck into the offensive zone and then hem Nashville in for stretches. Even when the Hurricanes were not getting scoring chances, they were at least playing the game most of 200 feet from their own net. And sure enough the Hurricanes struck again when Saros’ mishandled a puck behind his net and was then quickly beaten short side by Jeff Skinner. Saros went on to make a number of good saves as the game proceeded, but his slow start in the first period posted the Hurricanes to a nice lead and the beginning of a winning effort.
The second period again saw the Hurricanes control play for significant stretches. The good guys just had more jump and were faster to the puck all night in all 3 zones. But the Canes missed a few chances to finish and the Preds hung around long enough to gain life early in the second when Viktor Arvidsson beat Eddie Lack from an impossible angle on a bad goal. The goal seemed to give the Predators a burst of energy despite being outplayed through most of the first half of the game. But the trio of regular producers on the night then combined to rebuild the Hurricanes’ 2-goal lead. Jordan Staal won and controlled a puck on the wall. He found Jaccob Slavin who once again demonstrated his recent proficiency for getting shots past the player and front of him and to the front of the net at the same time team mates are there. Jeff Skinner made quick work of a rebound chance for his second goal of the game. The play also gave Slavin and Staal their second points of the night and pushed the Canes back up by 2 goals.
The Hurricanes continued to push and had chances but no luck in finishing off Nashville. Skinner hit a bar that would have given him a hat trick. And Phil Di Giuseppe undressed a Predators’ defenseman with a nifty move only to also clang a shot off the iron. But the gap stayed at 2 goals until the situation became scary late. Filip Forsberg beat Lack with a laser with 1:49 left to make things interesting. And when Victor Rask took an unnecessary slashing penalty, the situation became downright precarious. But the Hurricanes penalty kill again stepped up and even relieved pressure when Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm combined for a shorthanded empty-netter to more or less close out the game.
The win was another solid 1. The Hurricanes were legitimately the better team throughout most of the game and beat another Western Conference team that is likely headed to the playoffs.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed it, you can find the game preview HERE.
Lack had the 1 horrible goal allowed, but otherwise he battled and kept the puck out of his net until the late goal. In my opinion, he was better in Thursday’s win, but 2 goals allowed on 29 shots on a win is good enough.
2) Blue line watch, especially Noah Hanifin and Ryan Murphy
For me, the story of the game was the top half of the Canes blue line. Jaccob Slavin continues to rack up points with his 2 assists detailed above. Justin Faulk did not get on the score sheet, but I thought he had an incredibly strong game defensively against a team that attacks with speed and skill which has at times been a problem for him this season. And Brett Pesce also had another strong game. The trio of Slavin, Faulk and Pesce logged 23:40, 24:25 and 22:53 of ice time respectively, and I thought all 3 were very good on another night when Peters shortened the bench. For me, all of Noah Hanifin, Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck were a mixed bag of some good and a couple ‘oopses.’
In terms of trying to find a big 3, I had 1 of the 3 players right. The 3 stars at PNC Arena were dead on tonight with Jeff Skinner, Jaccob Slavin and Jordan Staal receiving them. After a slow stretch, Jeff Skinner is heating up again.
Peters going for broke: Coach Bill Peters continues to noticeably lean on the top half of his roster in close games. I already noted the ice time of the top 3 defensemen. In addition, Jordan Staal logged a big 22:11 and Sebastian Aho 21:08. Both totals are season highs even counting overtime games. With a quick turnaround for a game in Philadelphia on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how they respond.
Still waiting for Phil Di Giuseppe: In his return to the lineup, Di Giuseppe logged only 8:14 of ice time, but mostly picked up where he left off in terms of generally solid play. He tied Rask and Faulk for a team high in hits with 5 despite limited ice time. He also had 2 really good scoring chances including a backhander from in close and the really pretty move off the rush that just missed off the pipe. I know I sound like a broken record, but I continue to think that the last step for him is to be able to slow things down just a little bit on scoring chances to start producing more on the score sheet.
Klas Dahlbeck: I liked his answer in terms of physicality. He had a couple big hits and even got in the Predators’ kitchen a bit late, but he did not come off his discipline in the process which is obviously important.
Justin Faulk: I think at least touched on it above, but I really, really liked Faulk’s game. He was solid and sound defensively all night.
Lee Stempniak: He continues to play well in an understated way. He was the player who pressured Saros behind the net, stole the puck and quickly fed Skinner on the second goal. And he continues to make more than his fair share of small plays every shift.
Really strong night for the forwards defensively and chasing loose pucks: If I step back from player-by-player analysis of the game, I think the story of the night was how fast and aggressive the Hurricanes were all night. The forwards tended to win 50/50 pucks at more like a 70/30 rate and just allowed very little for time and space all night.
Next up is a quick turnaround in Philadelphia on Sunday night.