Entering Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings, the question was whether the Canes would get the Red Wings who are in last place in the NHL and 23 points behind the team in front of them or if instead the Canes would get the RedWings team that came in with two straight wins including an impressive 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Early on, the easier road looked possible. The Hurricanes had the better of play out of the gate and collected couple decent scoring chances while giving up very little. The Canes capitalized on early momentum with yet another goal by upstart super star Morgan Geekie. The play was a showcase for Geekie. Earlier in the shift he won a puck on the boards and advanced it out of danger in the defensive zone. Then he retrieved a puck in the neutral zone and quickly fed a short pass to Warren Foegele who was in front of him, so they could gain the blue line before Detroit could adjust. Then he stepped into the open ice behind Foegele to receive a pass and snipe a shot bar in from between the face-off circles. But possible with help from a Canes penalty, the Red Wings responded after the Canes goal. For much of the rest of the first period, the Canes had trouble with the Wings’ speed and spent portions of the rest of the period under duress and having trouble in their own end. Petr Mrazek was sharp and neutralized a number of good chances. But Detroit finally broke through when Tyler Bertuzzi scored on one of many shifts when Detroit’s top line was too much to handle. The Hurricanes would escape the first period with that 1-1 tie.
The second period continued on a similar path. The Hurricanes had some chances, but Detroit’s speed still presented problems intermittently such that the period was back and forth a bit and probably looser than Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour would have preferred. The Canes went up 2-1 when Niederreiter finished a Gardiner shot. But when Skjei lost his assignment at the end of a long shift for a finish in front, the game was destined for a tense start to the third tied at 2-2.
The third period had some of everything. Justin Williams scored another big third period goal to stake the Hurricanes to an early lead. Sebastian Aho scored a shorty to extend the lead. The penalty kill was again called on to hold the fort. Aho and Teravainen connected again on the power play. And there was a bunch of extracurricular activity driven by a borderline hit on Svechnikov and a hit on Mrazek who maybe wandered into it a bit.
Player and other notes
1) Petr Mrazek
After a couple week layoff, Petr Mrazek looked sharp early. He read plays well and controlled rebounds from the outset and played especially well in the latter half of the first period when Detroit pushed. A bit like the Pittsburgh win, the final scored seemed to show some margin for error, but Mrazek was very good early on when the game was being decided.
2) The Aho line
On home ice, Detroit decided to match up best against best which meant that Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov spent most of the night against Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. The Canes trio uncharacteristically struggled mightily. As I said on Twitter, the trio was being eaten alive such that Brind’Amour had to trying to find a way even on the road to get a different match up at least part of the time. The Canes trio was on the ice for Detroit’s first goal and could easily have been touched up for a couple more on a mostly tough night. Aho and Teravainen played a role on the successful penalty kill and netted a shorthanded goal and a power play goal late, so hopefully that sparks them for Thursday.
3) Morgan Geekie
In Sunday’s win, he played a direct role in the Hurricanes first three goals while the game was close (and four total). On Tuesday, he scored a goal and was part of the second Canes goal when he was half of a two-player net front that saw Niederreiter finish. He had a couple good chances later in the game too. Also significant is his increased ice time and regular shifts in the third period when the Hurricanes were protecting a lead. Brind’Amour has been stingy with ice time for rookie call ups, so winning
4) Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner continued his run of making plays in the offensive zone. The Niederreiter goal was the result of a heady play to recognize that he had two team mates on the way to the net. Instead of firing a wild head hunter, he made a smart, simple play to quickly play the puck to a place where one or both of the two players had a chance to tip for a finish. Sure enough Niederreiter finished. The offensive part of his game is rising right now.
5) Brady Skjei
Brady Skjei had another tough night in his own end. He continues to too regularly be the defenseman who is in the picture just after an opponent scores. The second Wings goal saw Skjei a bit slow trailing the Wings forward who scored on a deflection. His penalty was probably a bad call, but he was again a half step slow covering a player headed to the net and on the wrong side of the player he needed to be marking.
6) Justin Williams
Williams had another big third period goal (before the lead became inflated) and added a heady assist late on Andrei Svechnikov’s goal off the rush, but that was taken away for offsides.
7) Results above all else
Tuesday’s win was a bit of a struggle through more than 40 minutes against the bottom team in the NHL. In that regard, the win was not as impressive as the weekend wins, but we are very much at the time of year where results trump all else. And the Canes stuck with it, found a way got the standings results.
After a sold 3-1 start, the Canes wrap up the road trip in New Jersey on Thursday.