Behind the extra buzz of Eric Staal’s second return to Raleigh in a visiting jersey (covered in this Thursday article), there was also a hockey game to be played on Thursday night. The game featured the Hurricanes putting their solid home record on the line against a very good Minnesota Wild team that entered the game near the top of the Western Conference standings.
Recap of Hurricanes 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild
Thursday night’s game started like many Hurricanes games of late. The good guys did a solid job of tamping down the opponent’s offense early while they collected most of the early chances. But the Hurricanes were unable to convert possession and shots into goals early despite mostly outskating the Wild. But the Hurricanes skating generated 2 power plays. The first saw the Canes get on the board first when Derek Ryan finished a rebound chance to take a 1-0 lead. The second power play unfortunately led to a shorthanded Wild goal when the combination of Lee Stempniak stuck uncomfortably in a defenseman role and Noah Hanifin mostly did nothing but back up defending a fairly harmless 2-on-2 rush. The end result was a quick, short pass behind Hanifin from where Mikael Granlund evened the game at 1-1. Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk spit out rebounds throughout the period making the period’s 1-1 ending feel like the Hurricanes could have had more had they had a puck find a stick for a second chance finish.
The second period was buttoned down early but featured a few loose plays as the period wore on. Eddie Lack continued his strong play, and though he did not face a high volume of shots, he was tasked with making a few tough saves to keep his team tied in the game.
The third period saw the Wild tilt the ice at times, but Eddie Lack had the answer during a couple flurries early in the period and then another that saw him make 3 quick saves with about 5 minutes left. After that, the Hurricanes finally pulled ahead when Victor Rask made a nice individual move to the net. After 2 periods that were a bit calmer than normal, Lack pulled out the s
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1) Noah Hanifin
He had the miscue early on the power play. First, he was a failed to bear down and handle a puck at the offensive blue line. Then he was just too passive defending on a fairly harmless 2-on-2 rush backing up, and backing up and then leaving just a little bit too much space behind him for the player he was defending. That lack of tightness defensively has crept back into his game a bit this week, but otherwise his game was better in Thursday’s win.
2) Lucas Wallmark
He continues to make plays when given the chance. He had an especially nice sequence in the first period when he took away a passing lane in the defensive zone with his positioning, got the puck to center ice 1-on-2 and then managed to pitch the puck behind the defense and retrieve it. The sequence was Jordan Staal-esque winning a puck in the defensive zone and then single-handedly moving it to the offensive zone and keeping possession.
They did not have a huge game, but for a game in which scoring was at a premium, Victor Rask scored the late game-winning goal, and Elias Lindholm picked up an assist on the play.
Eddie Lack: The story of the night was Eddie Lack. I recognize that he had a shutout against Ottawa, but I actually think Thursday’s win against Minnesota might have been his best this season. Whereas the Ottawa shutout had a post or maybe 2 even, Lack really did not get beat and need luck to survive on Thursday. His game did get a bit ‘scrambly’ in the third period, but I also thought Lack’s game was strikingly clean through 2 periods with a higher level of rebound control and more efficient motion.
A great win: The win really was a good one against a good team. I put Minnesota in the top third of the league, and of late the Hurricanes have struggled to push over the top against that level of win.
Elias Lindholm: He continues to impress me. While it is not necessary to be surly and scrappy after the whistle in today’s NHL, I like it in Lindholm’s game simply because it seems to pair nearly perfectly with his engagement level (which has taken a huge step up in 2016-17). On Thursday, he found himself in the middle of a jawing/pushing session after the whistle and sure enough the rest of his game followed intensity-wise.
Next up is another battle against a Western Conference foe, the Nashville Predators, in Raleigh on Saturday.