The Hurricanes offense continued its recent scoring ways on Saturday night in Ottawa and pushed the team to its second consecutive win. The 5-2 win boosted the goal total to 11 in the the past two games with many of the contributors from Thursday featuring prominently again on Saturday.
The Hurricanes actually started slow and relied on Cam Ward to keep them in the game early. Ward did exactly that, as team in front of him gained its footing and built a game with opportunistic scoring. Phil Di Giuseppe struck first when he beat Mike Condon from an odd angle on a Valentin Zykov pass from behind the boards behind the net. Ottawa struck back when Bobby Ryan won a battle versus Roland McKeown for ice in front of the net and tipped a puck past Ward from close range. The first period finished with that 1-1 score. The Hurricanes were uncharacteristically out-shot 12 to 5 and had a tough period defensively that Ward was mostly able to cover up.
The second period was more of the same. The Hurricanes continued to struggle in terms of managing the puck. Noah Hanifin looked rusty after a couple days off in terms of his defensive gaps defending the rush and also handling the puck. Haydn Fleury had a couple turnovers. And in total, the Hurricanes blue line that was minus veterans Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk played the kind of game that could have been another painful shellacking. But continuing the first period theme that saw the Canes more opportunistic than good, Brock McGinn scored the only goal in the second period when he deflected a Klas Dahlbeck shot for a late goal.
Then in the third period, the Hurricanes poured it on scoring twice and adding an empty-netter late to win 5-2. Hanifin scored a tap in goal on an audition tape for Sebastian Aho to stay in the center slot and be the playmaker that the team needs for the position. The play that saw Aho circling the offensive zone and attracting all of the attention before feeding Hanifin is worth watching if you did not see the game. Then Jeff Skinner followed with a pretty backhand finish after Di Giuseppe sprung him with a heady pass from blue line to blue line. Jordan Staal finished off the scoring with an empty-netter.
The game was a reverse of the most regular theme. The Hurricanes were out-shot by a 36 to 24 margin but did what too often happens to them to the Senators. The Hurricanes just picked their spots and finished at a high rate, such that the shot differential never seemed to matter.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators
1) Phil Di Giuseppe rising
Di Giuseppe now has five points in his past two games. The five-point scoring outburst is more than the four points he had during 40 games previously in 2017-18. Di Giuseppe looks assertive with the puck right now. Here is hoping that this represents him finding the latent part of his offensive game.
2) And ditto for Valentin Zykov
Zykov added two assists on Saturday to go with his two goals on Thursday giving him four points and putting him right behind Di Giuseppe. Early returns on his NHL stint are overwhelmingly favorable obviously. The point total is impressive, but I think more significant is that he has been able to match NHL pace with Aho and Teravainen and his simple game meshes well with the two skilled puck handlers.
3) Cam Ward
He was stronger than a superficial look might suggest. The defense in front of Ward was shoddy, especially in the first half of the game. The volume and degree of break downs was not significantly different than a couple of ugly recent losses. Ward was sharp early and fended off an alarming number of break downs and breakaways.
4) A rusty Noah Hanifin
In the middle of some of the messes was Noah Hanifin who was returning after a few games off with a concussion. Hanifin had a couple bad turnovers and regularly had trouble maintaining a gap that limited opposing players’ options in the offensive zone. I think the key in a first game back is to make simple plays with the puck and to push a bit out of the comfort zone in terms of gap.
5) Jaccob Slavin as a rock
With an undermanned blue line, Jacob Slavin looked like a veteran leader. He played 26:10 of nearly flawless defense despite missing options #1 and #2 for his partner in Pesce and Faulk respectively.
6) It’s an easy game with two lines clicking
I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended that the game looked easy with two lines clicking offensively. Teravainen/Aho/Zykov was a going concern again. And Skinner/Lindholm/ Di Giuseppe also played well again. When you couple that with McGinn/Staal/Williams also getting on the score sheet, the Hurricanes seemed to attack in waves such that even though the shot volume was low, the shot quality was enough to score and win.
7) The fourth line
The veteran fourth line of Nordstrom/Ryan/Stempniak continued to struggle a bit.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a rematch against the Senators on Monday night in Raleigh.