It took some patience, hockey stress and late heroics, but the Hurricanes won and stretched their point streak to a record 13 games, and with it the team stretched the 2016-17 season into April which is a place that the Hurricanes hockey community has not seen in years.
Thursday was another absolutely phenomenal day to be part of the Caniac Nation!
Recap of Hurricanes 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets
The first period was tough sledding for the Hurricanes. The Blue Jackets moved the puck into the offensive zone, won on the walls, hemmed the Hurricanes in even when they did win the puck and generally allowed the home team only to win the center line and dump the puck before it started again. But Cam Ward was steady, and the Hurricanes defense covered well in their own end such that a ton of offensive zone possession time for the Blue Jackets did not yield a ton of grade A scoring chances. The Hurricanes were stuck on 1 shot on goal for a long stretch while Columbus controlled the game. Of the Hurricanes 7 shots on goal in the first period, 5 came in the final 4 minutes of the period after some 4-on-4 ice time and a Hurricanes’ power play seemed to flip the Canes’ offense switch to on. Despite being outplayed in terms of puck possession and territorial control, the Hurricanes exited the first period knotted at 0-0 by virtue of being being pretty sound defensively even when hemmed in.
The second period saw the Hurricanes continue where they left off late in the first period. The ice tilted back to even and the Hurricanes had as many chances as they gave up. As the second period wore on, the game had a bit of the air of 1 of those games in which the Canes were going to be snake bit. After a slow first period, the second period was better, but the Canes just could not find the net. They missed on a few good chances where they seemed to have net to shoot at, and they had a few other players where they got the puck to a crowded front of the net but just could not seem to find the handle. There were a few good chances, but 1 of the best was an Elias Lindholm shot that barely deflected up off Joonas Korpisalo’s shoulder. And when Matt Tennyson, Klas Dahlbeck and Derek Ryan had trouble sorting out a 3-on-3 leading to a Jack Johnson snipe off the rush, the Blue Jackets were up 1-0 and the pressure mounted as the second period ended.
But to the Hurricanes credit, they did not panic or gambling for goals in the third period. They just kept pushing. Little by little the ice tilted such that the Hurricanes had more time in the offensive zone and a few chances here and there. But it actually took a bit of a lucky carom on a smart play to pull the Hurricanes even at 1-1. With Victor Rask engaged with a Columbus player in front of the net, Jeff Skinner whirled and fired the puck into the fray. The goal was originally credited to Victor Rask because it looked like it went off his skate, but the replay showed it instead going off of a Columbus’ skate. The result was the same either way. The Canes had scratched their way back to even with only 4:20 remaining in the game.
Earning a point by finishing regulation tied was enough to extend the Hurricanes’ point streak to a record 13 games, but with Boston and Tampa Bay winning, 1 point was not enough. And as good as the Canes have been getting points in 13 straight, they had been about as bad in overtime and shootouts losing 6 straight. But tonight was different. After a couple tense shifts and 1 Cam Ward save, Noah Hanifin found Jeff Skinner with a head of steam. Skinner did a whirling 360 and took the puck to the net attracting the attention of all 3 Columbus player plus the goalie. When the puck spit out to between the circles, a rushing Hanifin picked it up and made no mistake firing it past Korpisalo setting off a jubilant celebration.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed the game preview and want to catch up, you can find it HERE.
1) Energy, pace and legs
The Hurricanes struggled through much of the first period, but I am not sure I would attribute it to pace or fatigue. Columbus’ formula of getting pucks to the wall and then winning/keeping them is tough to play against for anyone as evidenced by their record but is especially hard for a Hurricanes team that is stronger playing with speed in the middle of the rink. Once the Hurricanes got going, they played Columbus even or better in terms of trading attacks for the second and third periods.
2) Cam Ward
He was steady and sharp. The team in front of him had a strong game in terms of keeping the chances that were allowed mostly to the reasonable variety where Ward had a chance. But to Ward’s credit, Thursday’s low-scoring affair was a game with no margin for error, and Ward was error free.
3) Staying within themselves and playing their game
I think this is an important underlying story in the win. Down a goal with the season on the line in the third period, it could have been easy to start taking low-probability chances to try to generate offense. That often leads to break downs that can quickly run a deficit to 2 and then 3 goals. The Hurricanes did a tremendous job of just sticking to it and were eventually rewarded for it.
4) Leaders rising up
Cam Ward should be mentioned in this category too for his strong effort, but I think Jeff Skinner takes the trophy for Thursday night. His goal was not pretty, but it was what the team desperately needed. His individual effort on the Hanifin game-winner was pretty and what was absolutely needed to extend the 2016-17 season into April.
Celebrate good times: When you get a minute on Friday, make sure you go watch the goal celebration again. I do not read lips well, but Hanifin was spouting some kind of goodness while everyone surrounded him. Also if you get another minute, rewatch for Jeff Skinner’s celebration and also go back to watch Skinner’s celebration on Faulk’s game-tying goal on Monday. Both are as good as the celebrations by the goal scorers.
The power play: Though it did not score in 2 tries, I thought the power play was very good on Thursday. The offensive zone possession time was good and the Canes had a good volume of near misses, pucks in/near the crease, decent shots and many of the other good things that often accompany power play goals.
Noah Hanifin: Good for him! That is easily the biggest goal of his young Hurricanes career. On a night when the Hurricanes missed some shots at open net, his ability to bury that shot under pressure should not be taken for granted. His 22:37 of ice time in a huge hockey game was his second highest total on the season.
Teuvo Teravainen: He had an especially strong game in terms of engagement. In a game that saw more than its fair share of battling for pucks on the wall, Teravainen was strong. He had 2 plays where he separated Blue Jackets from the puck on the wall and then made a play. The second play saw him bang a body, retrieve the puck and quickly feed Jordan Staal for a grade A chance.
Sound defense: I think if I had to credit the win to 1 thing, it would be the sound defensive play by the blue line with some help from the forwards. Given that they were on their heels for parts of the game and hemmed in their own end at times, they had a solid night sorting out assignments and not letting possession often convert into scoring chances. Jaccob Slavin logged 27:33, Justin Faulk 24:26, Brett Pesce 23:45 and Noah Hanifin 22:37 to lead the way.
The scoreboard: The only negative on the night was the scoreboard watching. The Islanders lost, so the Canes have officially passed another team, but the Lightning and more significantly the Bruins both won. The Canes just need to keep winning and trust that the hockey gods will get it right and reward what they are doing in March.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a hockey game of significance in April. Let me say that again – Next up for the Hurricanes is a hockey game of significance in April, on Saturday against the Dallas Stars at PNC Arena.