After a horrid 8-1 loss on home ice on Friday, the Hurricanes were right back in action without much time to think about it on Saturday night in Nashville.
The Hurricanes have had only a handful of stinkers (the road loss versus the Rangers and the home loss against the Senators come to mind), so it seemed reasonable to just write it off as a bad day and move forward. But the writing off has to happen on the ice for it to matter which added a bit of extra drama to Saturday’s game.
Carolina Hurricanes game recap
As one would have hoped, the Hurricanes started on time Saturday and looked no worse for wear after Friday’s drubbing. The Hurricanes controlled play, tilted the ice into the offensive zone and had the better of shot totals early. Even better, the Hurricanes picked up three power plays early with two overlapping to provide 1:36 of 5-on-3 time. The first power play was decent, but things went downhill from there with the 5-on-3 being disappointingly sluggish and without movement. After about seven minutes of play, the Hurricanes had an 11-2 shot advantage but with an 0 for 3 on the power play and 0-0 on the scoreboard, the game was set to swing quickly to bad if Nashville awoke and potted the first goal. Fortunately, Nino Niederreiter charted a different course. First, he sniped a laser into the far corner of the net to put the Hurricanes up 1-0. Then shortly thereafter he tipped a Teuvo Teravainen point shot on the power play down for skip up off the ice and into the net. Suddenly, the Hurricanes had belatedly been rewarded for their strong start and had a nice two-goal lead. The Hurricanes took that 2-0 lead and much better mojo to the locker room after one period of play.
A bit like the Boston and Florida games recently, the Hurricanes seemed a bit unsure how to just keep doing the same thing with a lead in the second period. Nashville picked up steam and eventually drew within a goal when a well-placed blast off the rush by Craig Smith only 2:52 into the second period. Nashville picked up a spark and was buzzing after the first goal. But even when hemmed in a bit and under duress, the Hurricanes were much better defensively on Saturday, and Petr Mrazek had a few answers when needed. Eventually the Predators cooled a little bit and the Hurricanes fought back to closer to even for the rest of the second period which ended with the Hurricanes clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Only 55 seconds into the third period, Justin Williams would add another clutch third period goal to his collection. He deflected another Teravainen point shot on the power play to find the net behind Saros to give the Hurricanes some breathing room at 3-1. But the Predators kept pushing and pulled back within a goal when Brian Boyle sneaked behind Brett Pesce to retrieve and quickly bury a rebound. The rest of the third period was a wild up and down game that looked like shinny at times. Only four minutes after the Boyle goal, Jordan Martinook would squeak a goal through the tiniest of holes underneath Saros who seemed to be all the way down on the ice. The second round of insurance scoring would be needed as the wild third period saw Nashville score again when Brian Boyle was pushed into Petr Mrazek by Jordan Staal just as Mikael Granlund was shooting. The result was a mess in front of the net and ulimately a third Predator goal after some strange sequence of a delay, a review and a challenge. The Hurricanes would hold on and ultimately close things out at 5-3 after a Sebastian Aho empty-netter for his 30th goal of the season.
After an 0-1-1 start to the week, the Hurricanes needed to get back in the win column and did. Putting the Winnipeg loss safely in the rear view mirror was also a bonus. And with Pittsburgh and Columbus splitting their home and home series, the Hurricanes moved back into the #3 spot in the Metropolitan Division with a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh. The gap for at least holding a wild card spot is now two points over Columbus (same games played) and two points over Montreal (with a game in hand).
Player and other notes
1) Nino Niederreiter
His first period goal scoring was absolutely clutch. At the point where he scored the first goal at even strength, the Canes power play was in the process of sapping whatever momentum might have been gained early. The first goal was a goal scorer’s snipe. The second was a nifty deflection from going to the front of the net. His two goals may have been buried underneath the back and forth 5-3 final, but in my opinion they were by far the single biggest factor in the win.
2) Teuvo Teravainen
Teravainen brought a nice version of simple to make a sputtering Canes power play productive. I think the stagnant 5-on-3 showed the real current state of the team’s power play. But from the files of keeping things simple and making plays, Teravainen did a nice job finding a shooting lane and timing pucks to the front of the net with players there. The first shot put the puck where Niederreiter could make a play, and he did. The second was just the fortuitous bounce that can happen when the puck glanced off Williams and in.
3) Brett Pesce
He uttered a bad word about his own play on the Boyle rebound goal but quickly made up for it with another good offensive play. He stepped up into a 2-on-2 to make it a 3-on-2 and then got the puck to the net. The play was not pretty, but the result was Martinook’s goal. Pesce now has a goal and five assists in five games in March.
4) Petr Mrazek
His three goals against do not stand out as spectacular, but Mrazek continued his run as battling throughout and seemingly having a knack for making a handful of great saves when they are most needed.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Monday match up in the Mile High City against the Avalanche.