With any cushion given up with the two losses to the Capitals, the Hurricanes resumed their playoff quest with a more favorable match up against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Carolina Hurricanes game recap
The Saturday matinee started a bit cautiously with the Hurricanes playing sound but not necessarily the high-end brand of pressuring hockey that is peak Hurricanes hockey for the 2018-19 season. The Canes did have the upper hand early with a handful of shots but not much in terms of grade A chances. But the Flyers scored first when Andrei Svechnikov had a bit of a rookie moment. First, he managed to have a pass go through him along the boards for an icing. Then toward the end of the shift and with the Flyers’ best on the ice, he tried to do too much just inside the blue line when living to fight another day would have been the better choice. He turned the puck over and a couple seconds later a pretty passing play off an odd man rush had the puck in the net behind Petr Mrazek to put the Flyers up 1-0. Past the one ‘oops’ the Hurricanes defense was pretty solid in the first period. Dougie Hamilton had consecutive deflections of centering passes, another pass break up later and was the player who tied up the Flyers’ player’s stick in front of the net on the dangerous play that saw the Canes get a quick whistle. Things turned better for the Hurricanes when the power play finally helped. In the middle of a power play with the Hurricanes unable to move the puck far enough ahead of the Flyers pressure, Justin Williams found himself with the puck at the side of the net. He smartly abandoned pretty which has not been working and instead just pushed the puck to the crease. ‘Hack and whack’ time ensued and then ended when Teuvo Teravainen buried a rebound to tie the game at 1-1. The Hurricanes would net another goal and a 2-1 lead when Dougie Hamilton went into his fourth forward mode. Hamilton joined the rush, looped behind the net when a first pass did not connect and then had the puck find him for a quick tally. The first period would end with the Hurricanes overcoming the miscue and leading 2-1.
The Hurricanes continued to have the upper hand by a modest margin in the second period but were unable to add to the lead. The best chance was another good offensive play by Hamilton who labeled a pass for Brock McGinn who likely would have scored had his stick not been tied up. The Hurricanes did not give up a lot for chances, but Mrazek did have to be sharp on a couple occasions to preserve the 2-1 lead.
The third period was tense with the Hurricanes clinging to a 2-1 lead and the teams trading chances a bit. The Hurricanes finally gained some breathing room when Justin Faulk scored the team’s second power play goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Then, the Hurricanes would put on a clinic on how not to close out a win that was in hand. Less than a minute after Faulk’s goal, Jordan Staal took an interference penalty in the neutral zone. The result was a Flyers power play goal that cut the margin to a single goal. Then with 3:30 remaining Williams took another interference penalty to set up a white knuckle finish. Fortunately, Jaccob Slavin scored into an empty net on a 200-footer to put the Hurricanes back up by two goals, and Brock McGinn added another empty–netter on the way to a 5-2 final.
Unfortunately, the Carolina Hurricanes coaches alumni group offered no scoreboard help at night. Peter Laviolette’s Predators lost to the Blue Jackets, and Paul Maurice’s Jets lost to the Canadiens. The results leave the Hurricanes still in the #7 playoff slot but also still with no margin for error.
Player and other notes
1) Dougie Hamilton
He was the Hurricanes best player on the night and won the first star for his efforts. He had the goal, but also a number of great plays using his size and reach to interrupt passing lanes. His highlights included tying up the Pens player in front of the net and also making a great pass to McGinn who would have scored if not for getting his stick tied up.
2) Petr Mrazek
He continued his run of strong play. Early in the game, the Hurricanes had a knack for not giving up many shots but giving up high quality. As has been the case for awhile now, Mrazek had the answer when needed.
3) Special teams
The Canes special teams which have struggled of late were plus 1 on the night which was the difference not counting the empty-netters. The power play was a perfect 2 for 2, and though the penalty kill did give up a goal on three chances, it stood tall at the end and scored the empty-netter to seal the win.
4) Brett Pesce
Brett Pesce continued his strong run. He has always been solid defensively, but what is eye-opening right now is his transition to playing on his off side. Not surprisingly, he has been able to get more good shot attempts with passes coming into his wheel house on his off side. But what is more impressive is how he seems to be unaffected in terms of his ability to defend in his own zone and off the rush on his off side and even more so his ability to carry and advance the puck more often having to handle and maneuver on his backhand.
5) No help from the Canes coaches alumni group
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes did not gain much from winning. Montreal beat Paul Maurice and Winnipeg, and Columbus beat Peter Laviolette and Nashville. So the Hurricanes only maintained their one-point lead over each.
Next up is a quick turnaround and another huge hockey game in Pittsburgh on Sunday night.