In the latest ‘biggest game of the year’, the Hurricanes took on the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena on Sunday night on Pride Night.
The game started quickly with both teams having pretty good success moving the puck through the neutral zone and at least having a chance to fire the puck toward the net. In the early going, but teams were pretty sound defensively which resulted in a relatively high volume but also relatively low quality of shots. For as much as the Hurricanes piled up shots, the number of true scoring chances was minimal and based on how Carey Price looked early, it seemed unlikely that we was going to be beaten on a random low-percentage shot without extenuating circumstances. In the latter half of the first period, the Hurricanes had a run of ‘oopses’ trying to move the puck from their own end. First, Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce had issues exchanging the puck. The result was a turnover a near miss that clanged the pipe behind Curtis McElhinney. Another turnover nearly created a dangerous situation before being defused. But after going to the well one too many times, a Teuvo Teravainen defensive zone turnover led quickly to a pass to the front of the net and a goal before the Hurricanes defense could recover. When the dust settled on a back and forth first period, the score was 1-0 Montreal with the Hurricanes outshooting the Canadiens by a 21-16 margin in a high-activity first period.
The second period seemed like it was from a completely different game. Montreal mustered a few shots here and there and also benefited from a power play, but their shot rate was lower. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes were disjointed trying to move the puck as a five-man unit. Frequently, the Hurricanes were outnumbered around the puck which led to sloppy play, turnovers and an inability to muster any kind of momentum or attack in the offensive zone. The Hurricanes did not muster their first shot on net in the second period until well after the midway point. Fortunately, Montreal’s attack was only slightly better, and McElhinney had answers for everything he faced. The shot total dropped precipitously from 34 in the first period to 13 in the second period.
That set the stage for the third period. After settling for a high volume of low-quality chances in the first period and then just not getting shots on net in the second period, the Hurricanes pushed and were rewarded for it in the third period. But Carey Price was on his game and seemingly ready to stop anything that he saw. Aho had a partial breakaway and went to his standard move that shifts the puck late and uses the five-hole opening to score. Price was ready for it and just waited him out and left the stick waiting to defend the shot. Aho had another grade A chance on a rebound. Teravainen had a breakaway chance. And in general the Hurricanes looked dangerous again. But Price gave up nothing, and the game seemed destined to end in a 1-0 shutout. But with less than five minutes remaining, a fairly harmless looking wrist shot by Trevor van Riemsdyk found a screen from a Canadiens player and then the net behind price. Both teams would ride out regulation and collect a point.
The overtime was the usual tense and sometimes frenetic variety. The Hurricanes lost the first two face-offs but did not yield much in terms of scoring chances from it. From there it was back and forth until the ice got spaced out and Andrei Svechnikov found himself in along from the blue line in. He made no mistake beating price to win the game. No doubt, this was the biggest goal of Svechnikov’s young career and his 20th on the season.
One again, the Hurricanes had found a way to win.
Player and other notes
1) Micheal Ferland
He had the high sticking penalty off of a battle during a face-off which tarnished an otherwise solid night. Ferland was a going concern as a rugged power forward most of the night. He had a shift in the second period where he laid three heavy hits in 40ish seconds of ice time, and he was physical all game.
2) Curtis McElhinney
I questioned whether Brind’Amou (and Bales) might be ready to deviate from the platoon in net. Instead, he went straight from the textbook of splitting all back-to-backs. The move worked well. McElhinney had his best game in a couple weeks. With Price on fire at the other end and the Hurricanes trailing by a goal, the margin for error goaltending-wise was virtually zero. Any goal against could have been the end against on Sunday night, but the Canadiens never did net a second goal. As a result, McElhinney gave his team a chance.
3) Intermittent struggles against an aggressive forecheck
What stood out to me during the stretches where the Hurricanes were struggling was how much trouble they had when advancing the puck from their own end when Montreal forechecked aggressively sometimes with three players below the face-off dots.
4) Jordan Staal
I really liked his game on Sunday night. He continues to be at least an option to advance the puck from defense to offense. At times when the team is sputtering a bit, Staal’s skill set plays a huge role in at least relieving pressure.
5) Special teams
Special teams, namely the power play, continue to be a problem. When the Hurricanes desperately needed a goal or at least some momentum from the power play, it came up empty. In addition, the power play was bad enough that it had the potential to sap energy.
6) Biggest goal
Trevor van Riemsdyk’s game-tying goal was very likely his biggest as a Hurricanes player. In addition, Svechnikov’s 20th was similarly his biggest as a Hurricanes player.
7) The standings
With the overtime, win, the Hurricanes gained a point on the Canadiens. The Blue Jackets won, so nothing was gained there. And Pittsburgh was idle, so the Hurricanes added two points there. With seven games to go, the Hurricanes are planted in the first wild card slot with a five-point margin over the Blue Jackets who are the first team out right now.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a home and home set of two games against the Capitals.