With the Columbus Blue Jackets game ending with a Blue Jackets loss early into the Hurricanes game, the ball was on the tee for the Canes to build a four-point lead over both Montreal and Columbus for the two wild card slots. Looking up instead of down, the Hurricanes needed a win to pull even with the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Early on, the game actually had a bit of the Winnipeg feel. The Hurricanes at least did a decent job of counterattacking, but the neutral zone was a free fly zone early for the Avalanche. The key differences were twofold. First, Petr Mrazek was sharp early and erased some of the issues. Second, at least when the Hurricanes forwards were beaten up ice they returned to defend secondary passes behind the play. Though I do think Colorado had the upper hand in the first period, the Hurricanes also had some chances in a wild first period that could best be described as fire wagon hockey despite somehow ending in a 0-0 tie. Along the way, the Hurricanes also killed off a couple of penalties. Arguably the Hurricanes best chance came when the puck ended up in the Colorado net but was quickly waived off for incidental contact with the goalie. Andrei Svechnikov carried the puck hard to the net which led to a rebound for Jordan Staal who finished. But with that waived off (correctly in my opinion), the period ended at 0-0.
The front part of the second period continued to feature a high pace back and forth, but the Hurricanes started to play more even. Finally at almost exactly the midway point of the second period, the Hurricanes broke through when Svechnikov made a strong play in the neutral zone to advance the puck despite drawing a penalty. Dougie Hamilton picked up the loose change, scampered in and beat Philipp Grubauer glove high for the first goal of the game. The rest of the second period was more of the same with both teams flying up and down the ice and only the goalies standing in the way of a high scoring affair. The Hurricanes would finish the second period still with a 1-0 lead.
From that point forward, the story of the game was mostly Petr Mrazek one-upping whatever he had done previously. He had a somewhat lucky save on a shot off the shaft of his stick and even crazier one that was not luck when he managed to lurch across and get a tiny piece of a shot with his skate and then a bigger piece with his swooping stick. At some point, it felt like it just did not matter what Colorado threw at him. The Hurricanes did gain some breathing room when a pretty pass by Teuvo Teravainen found Andrei Svechnikov open in front of the net for a quick finish. Svechnikov would add an empty-netter to finish off a three-point night.
Tomorrow, the Hurricanes will wake up four points IN (not OUT…IN!!) a playoff spot with only 13 games to go.
Player and other notes
1) Petr Mrazek
As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended:
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 12, 2019
Petr Mrazek was utterly outstanding in Monday’s win. If one swaps in a mediocre or bad goalie outing, could this game end 3-2 Colorado? I think it is definitely possible.
2) Andrei Svechnikov
On cue after I questioned whether the rookie might be hitting a wall, he had his best game playing up on a higher line. Figuring in on all three goals was impressive obviously, but equally noticeable was his level of engagement. After a run where he had been a bit quiet physically, his level of physical engagement has been ramping up for a couple games now.
3) Jordan Staal
Playing with Svechnikov and the quietly solid Teravainen, I think Jordan Staal played his best game since returning from injury. His long reach and big frame were a disruptive force on the penalty kill early in the game and his ability to transport the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone was on full display in a game where the Hurricanes sometimes needed help relieving pressure.
4) Teuvo Teravainen
Flying a bit below the radar, he has played a key role as a playmaker in three goals in the past two games.
5) Brett Pesce
Pesce took a turn as the defenseman that Brind’Amour leaned on a bit extra. He logged 24:41 of ice time in a solid performance that follows his recent trajectory playing his best hockey of the year.
6) Scoreboard watching
First, let me be clear to say that the Hurricanes have played themselves into a position where they do not necessarily need help. The team now controls its own destiny. That said, knowing that the Hurricanes only need to beat one of Pittsburgh, Montreal and Columbus to win a playoff berth, I continue to watch the Blue Jackets like a hawk and have been for awhile now wishing doom upon the Blue Jackets. Last week, I hoped for a Penguins sweep, but it ended with a split. But Columbus lost today. Next up comes two games against a very good Bruins team with a game against the Hurricanes in the middle. Here is hoping that Columbus implodes this week.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a three-day layoff before that huge Friday tilt against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.