More important than the details is the simple fact that the Canes pushed back into the win column after a pair of ugly home losses. The team even encountered their recent demons from the third period but persevered and netted a rebound win.
Likely fighting it a bit after a couple tough losses, the Hurricanes got off to a good start in similar fashion to Saturday’s game. Again, Jaccob Slavin created a shooting lane from the point, capitalized on traffic in front courtesy of Joakim Nordstrom and benefited when the puck caromed off an Islander defenseman’s skate and in. Barely after the rejoicing for the first goal ended, the Hurricanes struck again when Lee Stempniak who was playing in his 900th NHL game skated freely into an open gap and fired from between the face-off circles.
The second period continued on the same course early on. Scott Darling stepped up to make a handful of good saves to maintain the two-goal lead including a stop on John Tavares at close range. But when Josh Bailey scored on a tip midway through the second period, and Anders Lee followed it up with a power play goal less than two minutes later, tensions rose again. Next Jaccob Slavin made another offensive play finding a shooting lane and getting a puck through for a Joakim Nordstrom. Victor Rask when flooded the front of the net and finished the rebound. The goal seemed to help the team get its footing, settle down and avoid an immediate implosion similar to the two previous games. The result was a 3-2 lead entering the third period.
In what felt like ‘hold on for dear life time’ after the previous two games, the Hurricanes again entered the third period with a lead. And just like earlier in the week, the game ended up tied. A second power play goal by the Islanders pulled the game even at 3-3. But this time the Hurricanes responded positively and gutted it out when Trevor van Riemsdyk picked a great time to score only his second goal of the season. From there the Hurricanes defended a third period lead for the first time this week and picked up a much-needed 4-3 win.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 win over the New York Islanders
1) Jaccob Slavin
On cue, my silver linings from Saturday’s loss and also my game preview for Sunday highlighted Jaccob Slavin’s scoring outburst on Saturday. He followed up a goal and an assist on Saturday with the same on Sunday. Both of Sunday’s scoring plays featured Slavin creating a shooting lane and getting a shot through to the front of the net. That’s the path to collecting points in bunches as a defenseman without needing a laser of a shot. The team needs more production offensively from its blue line, so Slavin’s surge, even if brief so far, is welcome obviously.
2) Congratulations to Lee Stempniak on game #900
On Sunday, Lee Stempniak played in his 900th NHL game. That is impressive by any standard. Kudos to the hockey gods or taking notice and awarding Stempniak with a decent scoring chance that he promptly finished.
3) Joakim Nordstrom
Giving credit where it is due, Joakim Nordstrom had a big game offensively with two assists. The scoring points were his first since before Thanksgiving. As has been the case in other games despite his scoring struggles, Nordstrom generally played a strong game in all three zones.
4) Scott Darling
When the Islanders scored twice in a fairly short period of time in the second period, the Hurricanes teetered into the frazzled and fragile range. But as noted above, Sunday was more about finding a way and exorcising demons for Darling just like with the rest of the team. He played well around the couple goals in the second period and managed to hold the fort when things felt dicey late in the game. Count it as a positive, and try to build on it.
5) Sebastian Aho at center
Finally getting back to the initiative to play Aho at the center position, Aho centered Teuvo Teravainen and Justin Williams. Aho did not have a huge night on the score sheet (only a single secondary assist), but he showed glimpses of what he is capable of as a center. He is comfortable carrying the puck and navigating through space, and he had a couple passes to set up decent shooting attempts for line mates with the most notable being a pass that found Williams between the circles. There is a transition to be made, but I think it will come quickly and naturally for Aho on the offensive side of the puck. The somewhat bigger challenge will be sorting out responsibilities without the puck. He continues to have times when he is generally in the right place but is ‘squishy’ as I have termed it in that he does not always close or take away options or angles (sort of the defenseman equivalent of having a tight gap defending the rush). I hope Peters sticks with Aho at center for the remainder of the season. He does have a learning curve playing without the puck, but as a cerebral player 10 more games in the role could help that process.
6) Celebratory ice cream!
After a run of drowning sorrows and frustration in ice cream, Sunday represented a return to celebratory ice cream.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Tuesday match up against the Edmonton Oilers in the only chance this season to see phenom Connor McDavid at PNC Arena.