Canes Get the Sweep in South Florida

Cary, NC — Coming off a reality check in Tampa Bay, the Hurricanes knew it wouldn’t be easier across the other side of Florida with the revived first-place Panthers.

Canes Hold Off Panthers In 4-3 SO Win

The Panthers are playing some very good hockey and Rod Brind’Amour calls them the best transition team in the NHL.

Plus, having future Hall of Fame Coach Joel Quenneville and several top forwards and a rock-solid defense adds up to another elite team within the Central division. Similar to their recent game against the Dallas Stars, the Panthers erased a 2-0 deficit. But, unlike that game, the Canes didn’t fold and instead dug down and came out on top with a 4-3 shootout win.

Canes Get a Day Off After Tampa Bay

Like the game in Raleigh 10 days earlier, when the Panthers handed the Canes their first loss, this game was also tied at 3 after regulation, forcing the overtime.

Roddy gave the players a needed and very much appreciated day off on Friday where, with Florida being ahead of the curve for Covid recovery, some of the Canes hit the beach, some just did some strolling, taking in the sights and some played golf.

An interesting twist on Canes’ golfing in Florida. When it’s unexpected, I suspect you can always rent clubs but golf shoes are a question. No problem, rather than ruin their dress shoes, play barefoot! If there was a blister from barefoot golf, it didn’t affect the Canes play in the first.

To start the game, the Cats came out at 100 mph but appeared the Canes were at 101 as they jumped on pucks, had excellent defensive coverage and paid the price several times along the boards. There are goals that every goalie would like back and penalties skaters would like to have back.

Trocheck Tips in A Hamilton Bomb

Vincent Trocheck has scored in all 3 games played against his former home team, the Florida Panthers this season.

Jordan Martinook got called for a senseless holding penalty along the boards just over the Cats’ blue line that was so minor, Marty wasn’t sure why the whistle was called until the ref pointed to him to take a seat in the sin bin. James Reimer was in net and thwarted every shot during the Cats’ man advantage as Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce were clearing the crease allowing for clear sightlines for the puck for Reims.

Up front, Jordan Staal and Brock McGinn were simply pests, ragging the puck, getting in passing lanes and deflecting passes. Late in the period, Vincent Trocheck stole the puck in the neutral zone and just as he started to take off, Kevin Connauton had what he wished was an innocent trip but the refs saw otherwise giving the Canes their first powerplay.

The first unit was looking very strong, great passing and constant possession in the Cats end. After Sergei Bobrovsky made a nice save off a Hamilton shot tipped by Tro, the next faceoff was to the right of the goal. Tro won the faceoff, drawing the puck back to Hamilton.

Hamilton skated to the high slot and saw great traffic in front by Staal and Tro, then sent a hard slap shot that Tro tipped his blade for a redirect into the goal for the first of the game and second against his former team in as many games.

Playoff Style Hockey

The second period was playoff-type hockey, but only in February. Every shift was in high gear, heavy hits along the boards with the Panthers out hitting the Canes in the game 24-19. The good news is the two biggest Canes, Staal and Hamilton delivered the most hits for the Canes.

The Canes killed two penalties in the second, the first when Skjei got his stick under the skates of former Canes Eetu Luosratinen for a tripping call and Jake Bean for holding against Mason Marchment. During the Skjei penalty, the Canes got 3 breakaway chances by Sebastian Aho, Ginner and Necas while not allowing a shot on net.

Impressive kill that, if just one of those breakaways converted into a goal, could have been a game-changer.

Even with those two penalties, the Canes forechecking and overall tightening on coverage dropped the Cats shots to Reims from 12 in the first to just 8 in the second which had to be a positive comment Roddy would bring up during the intermission with directions to stay the course.

Bean’s First NHL Goal Puts Canes Up 2-0

Jordo won the opening faceoff for the third with Slavin crossing the red line, sending the puck deep. With Ginner honing in on MacKenzie Weegar in the corner, Weegar attempted to flip the puck from the goal line to over the blue line but Ginner’s pressure forced a bad flip that went over the glass for a delay of game.

The first powerplay unit was having difficulties keeping the puck in the Cats’ end as the Panther man-down unit was doing a good job jumping on every loose puck. After a clear, the Canes second unit hopped over the boards and continued to bring the puck into the Cats end.

Beaner, on the left point, passed over to Pesch up on the right. Pesch immediately passed down for Jesper Fast inside the near faceoff circle. Quickie looked to the center, saw it clogged and passed back up to Pesch who quickly sent it over to Beaner.

Beaner, keeping his head up, saw an opening and took two strides, sending a hard rising wrister that avoided everyone and everything—including Bobrovsky’s glove. Finding the upper corner, he sealed a very impressive first NHL goal and more importantly a 2-0 third period Canes lead.

Panthers Net 2 Goals in 2 Minutes

A wise old plastics engineer once said if you ever come across a sleeping Panther, don’t poke him. The Beaner goal may have been that poke as the Cats clawed their way back into the game.

Andrei Svechnikov was tangled with Ryan Lomberg in center ice with Lomberg grabbing Svech’s arm, forcing Svech to lose his stick and of all things get a holding penalty. The Cats wasted no time in converting the man advantage into a goal.

After cycling in the near corner, the puck went to 6’ 3”, 215 lb Alexsander Barkov covered by 6’ 185 lb Ginner. Barkov won positioning on the corner, directing the puck under Reims forcing Reims to squeeze thinking he had the puck underneath but it skooched through the pads near his skates with Jonathan Huberdeau extending his stick to knock it in.

Reims went right after the ref calling saying he had possession but replays showed it was the right call. Being natural killers and survivors, the Panthers liked the taste of blood with that goal being blood and got recharged. After winning a faceoff in the Cats’ end, the Cats had an excellent set play in which both wingers would race to the Canes end if they won the faceoff.

As expected, the Cats won the faceoff, the forwards took off, their defense flipped the puck to the neutral zone with Marchment snaring the puck bringing it in the Canes end with only Slavin on defense, backhanded the puck to Frank Vatrano who put it top shelf over Reims right shoulder for 2 goals in 2 minutes making it a whole new game.

Pesce’s Smart Play Leads to Foegele Goal

At just over the 14’ mark, Cedric Paquette had the puck inside the near corner in the Cats end. With no clear pass or open teammate in the dirty area, he passed up to Pesch on the right point.

Cool and calm, Pesch skated backward, looking for a shot but saw the crease blocked with bodies, eyed Warren Foegele open on the corner of the crease and shot for Foeg’s stick, hit it spot on for a great looking tip-in.

Never count a good team out as the Cats turned on their higher gear after the Foegs goal. The Cats won a battle in the corner, sending the puck up high to Anton Stralman on the right point who quickly passed over to Weegar on the left. Weegar started going down the mid center area attempting a pass but the puck slipped off his stick.

Quickie anticipated the attempted pass but Weegar recovered the puck, changed direction then saw Patric Hornqvist, unexplainably all alone in front of Reims for an easy tip in to once again tie the game sending it to overtime.

Reims Seals Win

The Canes completely dominated the OT, getting off 3 solid shots while barely letting the puck cross their own blue line. In the 5th round of the shootout, after Necas scored the 3rd Canes shootout goal, Reims stonewalled Alex Wennberg to seal the needed second point.

Fair outcome to an excellent and entertaining game. Rematch is Monday night and should be a good one as both teams were showing signs of choppiness toward the end of regulation.

Aho Feeds Necas For OT Goal for 3-2 Win

The second game of this 2 game series was all it was supposed to be—playoff-type hockey with tight forechecking, low scoring, excellent goaltending and the chippiness behind the play and long after whistles.

After getting a goal in the first by Brett Pesce, the Panthers are being known now as the Comeback Cats as they seem to start games slow but always claw back, as they did in this game with 2 goals in the third to take the lead with former Panther, Vincent Trocheck knotting a late goal forcing overtime.

For the second time this season, Martin Necas slapped home the game-winner in overtime.

Pesce Opens Scoring

The Canes started rookie Alex Nedelkovic between the pipes and despite getting a shutout earlier this season, had his best game. Ned was quick on his side to side movement, quick glove, active stick and barking instructions when needed.

A little of the bad blood from the previous game spilled over into this game with those extra hits and high elbows after whistles while linesmen were attempting to separate teams.

The Canes’ play in the first was excellent. The forwards got back to tight forechecking, digging hard for pucks in the corners, passes onto the tape, getting back on defense while the defensemen made the lanes clear for Ned to see the puck.

Both Chris Driedger and Ned were having strong games, blocking everything coming their way and directing rebounds to the corners. The Canes had their best period on both sides of the puck with 12 shots, several were good scoring chances while the Cats got off 11 shots.

Patric Hornqvist got called for a dumb penalty for roughing Tro in the corner. After tripping Tro into the boards with Tro falling to the ice, Hornqvist continued to cross check Tro and smack him several times in the back of the head while Tro was down, with the dumb part: right in front of the referee.

The first powerplay unit was looking very good but after a clear by the Cats’ defense, Rod Brind’Amour called for the second unit about 20 seconds quicker than usual. The play started with Necas having the puck on the right point passing down to Jesper Fast off to the left of Driedger.

Quickie saw Nino Niederreiter covered in the dirty area, passed back to Necas who centered the puck to Jake Bean in the high slot. Beaner faked a shot to the goal, sending a crisp pass to Brett Pesce just inside the far circle and in an Ovechkin imitation (albeit it with probably 20 fewer mph on the shot) aimed for the far upper corner.

Quickie staked claim in the crease, blocking any chance for Driedger to see the puck. Absolutely a pretty goal.

Scoreless Second As Ned and Driedger Are On Their Games

While there was no scoring in the second, it may have been the most entertaining period of the game. Just end to end hockey with the refs doling out 3 penalties to each team with one set of offsetting roughing calls.

Andrei Svechnikov seemed to be the main target throughout the period, possibly because he had such a great first period doing everything but score. Svech expects to score every game and being in the midst of a goal scoring slump, he’s doing great with assists, he’s also showing a bit of frustration.

He clearly beat Griedger with a shot only tohave the puck hit the wrong side of the goal post to bounce to a corner. Early in the period Hornqvist targeted Svech and got called for roughing. Late in the period, MacKenzie Weegar and Svech both drew roughing calls which Weegar got lucky as he could have received a double minor for initiating the confrontation.

The Cats would take a Svech for Weegar penalty every day. Dougie Hamilton, having another great game, got the last penalty of the period when his stick got under Ironman Keith Yandle’s skates giving the Cats a great opportunity with a rare 4-on-3 powerplay.

Being good friends, it would have been fun having a microphone in the penalty box with both Hamilton and Svech to hear their comments. The Canes PK unit was awesome and not enough credit can go to Aho and Brock McGinn along with defensemen, Jaccob Slavin, Pesce, Haydn Fleury and Brady Sjkei.

If it was a normal year, not sure who would be buying those guys dinner: Hamilton or Ned as they were just outstanding.

Trocheck Cashes In Again

The Comeback Cats certainly earned that moniker in the third. From the drop of the first puck of the period, the Panthers came out attacking, managing to send their game into a higher gear. The Canes were chasing the play not setting the play.

Coach Joel Quenneville shortened his bench having several players on the top two lines alternating shifts. Roddy also cut back time for 2 on the fourth line and the changes seemed to affect the effectiveness on defense as too many times, clears from their defensive zone were stopped and turnovers happened on missed passes.

Being natural hunters, the Panthers took advantage of the weakness. Early in the second, the Cats brought the puck in the Canes end with a quick innocent shot that Ned hit with his stick to the near corner. Florida was first to the puck sending it behind the goal to change the play to the far side.

Carter Verhaeghe had the puck at the top of the far faceoff circle send one to the net that Ned blocked. Alexsander Barkov, who has been a real thorn to the Canes as he is that good, used his size to jump on the rebound, hacking it back to the net with Ned making another save, only to have Frank Vatrano, once again, score a third period goal with just 4:40 gone on the period.

Sensing a complete shift in the game, the Cats started their comeback, completely dominating the Canes. With just 3:09 left in the game the Comeback Cats took the lead. After clearing the puck from their own zone, former Hurricane, Eetu Luostarinen took the puck behind the net with Beaner covering him sending a greasy pass to Mason Marchment.

Marchment quickly passed back to Luostarinen who lost Beaner going around to the front of the net and after a couple of whacks, knocked the puck in for the Panthers first lead of the game. Roddy pulled Ned with just under 2 minutes remaining, sending out what looked like a mix of the first and second powerplay units.

Hamilton had the puck in the high slot passing over to Necas on the right point, quickly pinpointing a pass to El Nino below the goal line who lasered a pass to Tro on top of the crease banging it home against his former team to tie the game sending it to OT.

Necas Nets Game Winner

A pre-COVID celebration from Martin Necas

The Cats had the early possession in the extra time but the Canes kept the pressure on forcing a turnover. Hamilton settled the puck in his end while the Canes made a forward change then led Necas in stride who went through the neutral zone into the Cats end.

Just as Necas got to the high slot he dropped a pass to Fishy who went down the left side, seeing Necas use his speed to get by his defender, Fishy looked at Necas the whole time feeding a pass over his defenders, dropping it for a ‘easy’ slap in as Driedger was fooled by the pass leaving the net wide open for Necas’ second OT goal winner this season.

Great finish to a game that when an opposing team gets 23 shots in a period, and you get the win, feels like you stole points.

Next game is tonight in Nashville at 8 PM. Go Canes!

Story by Bob Fennel. Photos courtesy of the Canes public Facebook page and Panthers public Facebook page. See more Canes coverage on CaryCitizen.

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