Canes Down Predators, Snatch their 7th Consecutive Win

Cary, NC — This week, the Canes took on the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena on Tuesday and Thursday, both nights ending in victory and with fan-favorite storm surges.

Game 1: Staal Powers Canes To 3-2 OT Win

Jordan Staal had the overtime winner as well as a powerplay goal leading the Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the semi-depleted Nashville Predators.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, especially when the Canes fell behind 2-0, but after a highly questionable hit by Dante Fabbro to Brock McGinn’s head, the Canes responded with 3 unanswered goals.

Nedeljkovic Matches Rinne Save For Save

On the score sheet, the Canes had a game-high 15 shots in the period compared to just 7 for the Preds but most of the Canes’ shots were in the first half of the period with very few of them truly challenging Pekka Rinne.

The Canes at times resembled a Gatling gun, peppering shot after shot, some blocked, many high or wide and some right at the center of the large crest on Rinne’s sweater. At the other end of the ice, Alex Nedeljkovic was just as stingy on rebounds and key saves.

As the period progressed, the Canes appeared to lose “their game” and saw the momentum tilting for the Preds. The Canes had a 5 game win streak on the line while the Predators were feeling good after coming off a win over the Dallas Stars in which they dominated the first 2 periods but gave up 3 goals in the third, winning in a shootout.

With Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi was out with a bad lower-body injury and scratching former Cane Erik Haula, possibly for a lack of production issue, the Preds did step up their play missing these 2 key players.

Maybe a preliminary sense of how the game was going to go for Jordo was seen in the faceoff circle. Staal won all of his 8 faceoffs in the first which is just freaky. For the game, he won 20 of 28 for a 71% win percentage. Jordo was on his game. 

Preds Make it a 2-0 Game

The second period started seeing the play get a little edge to it. The refs were sending a message they were going to get the game under control by calling a few penalties, both ways, on what were soft penalties. On the other hand, there were a couple of hits that were highly questionable, especially the hit on McGinn.

After winning a faceoff on the Canes end, the Preds had two attackers jostling for position at the top of the crease. Ned made a save with his shoulder off a shot from Mark Borowiecki with Eli Tolvanen picking up the rebound and  passing up to Matt Benning on the right point.

Benning, not known for his offense, shot the puck into the heavy traffic with the puck having eyes hitting the back of the net for his first goal of the season. No one on the ice was more surprised than Benning that it went in. Well, except maybe Ned.

With possession in the Canes end, Filip Forsberg had the puck along the far boards passing to Fabbro in the high slot. Fabbro had enough space between him and his defender and saw Ryan Johansen battling with Jaccob Slavin at the top of the crease. Fabbro sent a high floater that Johansen managed to deflect downward that Ned had no chance on, to put the Preds up 2-0 at the 13:37 mark.

Staal, Aho Answer with Powerplay Goals

Staal won the faceoff after the goal, giving Canes possession of the puck in the Preds end. Then, just 10 seconds after the goal, the ugly hit by Fabbro on McGinn occurred. With McGinn in a vulnerable position along the boards, Fabbro elbowed McGinn in the jaw with his head smashing the glass then falling to the ice.

Initially, there was no call but after discussion among the 4 on-ice officials, a 2-minute minor was awarded whereas it looked like it deserved a 5-minute major. Good chance the NHL will review the hit and issue a suspension.

The Canes got the revenge they needed with a powerplay goal. Vincent Trocheck had the puck along the far boards, passed down low to Sebastian Aho below the goal line. Fishy carried the puck behind the net, eyed the potential to rim the puck up to Dougie Hamilton on the point but greased a pass between the goal and a defender to Jordo.

Muscling for the position on the corner of the crease, Jordo then rolled his hands to lift the puck top shelf to get the Canes within 1.

On the tail end of a Jeremy Davies penalty for holding Steve Lorentz, Nino Niederreiter got clipped on a high stick by Mathieu Olivier, drawing blood and a double minor giving the Canes a 5 on 3 for 14 seconds. Just as Coach Rod Brind’Amour drew up, the Canes scored a powerplay goal in their first 5 on 3 of the season, with 13 seconds gone.

Troch had the puck inside the far circle and took view of the landscape. Not seeing anything open in the low slot, he passed to Hamilton up top. Hamilton, with his bomb of a shot, is a shoot-first type guy. He looked for a shot but passed to Fishy on the perimeter of the near circle.

Fishy had his stick cocked and ready for ammo and hit the pass spot on to send it to the upper right corner to tie the game. 

Staal’s Determination Gets Game Winner

Both teams settled down in the third with Warren Foegele getting the lone penalty with a weak holding call. The penalty call was possibly a signal to the benches that the refs wanted to keep the game from getting out of hand with the hits on McGinn and Andrei Svechnikov still on the Canes’ mind.

Once again, Cedric Paquette led the Canes with 6 hits on about a hit for every other shift on ice while playing respectfully and honestly. Both teams buckled down on the defense and forechecking with game low shots on net by both teams with the Canes getting off 8 while the Preds were able to squeak just 2 on Ned.

Going into overtime wasn’t what the Canes were expecting as they had their chances during regulation but Rinne is a world-class goalie. The Canes have been very successful in games going beyond 60 minutes but there are no guarantees.

The Preds were the better team early in the extra time, keeping the puck in the Canes end and pressure on Ned who made an early save off a shot by Mattias Ekholm. Viktor Arvidsson did a sleek move that got by his defender and behind Ned but rushed a shot wide of an open net. A minute later Calle Jarnkrok got one past Ned but it rang off the iron.

With the puck deep in the far corner of the Canes end, Slavo goosed the puck up to the half boards. From there, Jordo manhandled Tolvanen, put the puck on his stick and it was off to the races. Jordo, who is no threat to Connor McDavid for fastest skater, jetted out of his own zone, through the neutral zone into the Preds’ end.

Martin Necas was to the side of the right slot but was well defended so Jordo did the only option—shoot.

Who saw this coming as the puck was a bullet going far side to beat Rinne on only what can be called a sick goal. For a few weeks now on Zoom calls, the players and coaches are being asked about the “new” Jordan Staal. After this game, it was no different with the responses getting more terse as everyone is saying his play has been this good all along.

The change is he’s getting points. Very similar to Hamilton’s situation, people ask if he is frustrated or disappointed and the answer is no, he’s still that good just getting tons of assists rather than assists and goals. That’s why hockey is a team game. The Canes are now sporting a season-long 6 game win streak. 

Game 2: Canes Extend Win Streak To 7

Deuces were wild with 4 Canes registering 2 points each in a very solid team win, their 4th for 4 games against the Nashville Predators, with a 5-1 win before a COVID sellout crowd of 2,924 loud Caniacs.

Morgan Geekie, Andrei Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton and Jake Bean each had 2 points with most of the scoring in a 2:21 span midway in the first period. Both teams had key players out with injuries but it was the Canes’ young players who really stepped up.

The Canes special teams had a great night, going 3-for-3 on the powerplay and killing the lone penalty taken by the Canes backed by a solid performance by James Reimer in goal for his 12th win of the season. 

1st Period Gets Game on Hot Start

Take the penalties out and the Predators had a decent first period. They had 15 shots and delivered 9 hits of which at least 6 were solid bell ringers. Reims was dialed in on his game with excellent positioning and about an active blocker since the days of Ken Dryden.

The Canes defense have been winning the battles in front of the goal most of the season and likewise in this game, were like bulldozers clearing the lane for clear vision for Reims. It wasn’t until 3-½ minutes into the game before the Canes finally got a shot off that Pekka Rinne gloved, Jordan Staal’s slap shot.

Before the Canes got another to the net, Michael McCarron got called for roughing against Brady Skjei along the near boards that could have been called for elbowing to the head. Speaking of hits to the head, not surprisingly, Dante Fabbro got a 2 game suspension for the hit on Brock McGinn in the previous game.

Coach Rod Brind’Amour is always cautious on walking the fine line of complaining for fear of a hefty fine or complaining for the good of the game. He said after the last game that frankly, he didn’t know the rules if the hit on Ginner wasn’t a major penalty. He then repeated his suggestion of giving the officials help by utilizing technology with replays so it’s instantaneous to get calls correct.

Geekie, McGinn, Hamilton Score Within 2:21

Canes player Brock McGinn warms up before a 2020 game (pre-COVID).

The Canes’ first powerplay unit was excellent getting off 4 shots, 3 of which were blocked by Preds who payed the price in the first minute of the man advantage. After the Preds cleared the puck, the teams made a wholesale change, each sending their second groups over the boards.

The play started with Brett Pesce having the puck along the near half boards, eyeing his options. He elected to pass up to Beanmwho moved to the center, surveyed the landscape that had Geekie and Jesper Fast down low but chose to pass to Nino Niederreiter along the far boards.

El Nino passed right back to Beaner who saw the lane was a mass of bodies then sent a waist-high wrister into the traffic with Geeks tapping the puck down like a bounce pass in basketball to hop over Rinne’s pad for his first goal in PNC Arena.

Two minutes later the play of Warren Foegele, Ginner and Jordan Martinook could be used as a forechecking teaching film. Ginner and Foegs were in a battle along the near half-boards for the puck when one of them knocked the puck up that Colton Sissons kicked to get it over the blue line. Martinook was 15’ behind the play but hustled to swat the puck back just as it was on the blue line to keep the puck alive in the Preds zone.

Matt Benning couldn’t settle the puck allowing Foegs to jump on the loose puck, went right to the goal, surprising everyone by not shooting but dished a sweet pass to Ginner all along on the perimeter of the far circle who slammed home the puck near side for the 2-0 lead. Staal had a rare faceoff loss in the puck drop after the goal but Jaccob Slavin intercepted a pass sending it into the Preds’ end.

Svech picked up the pass at the far boards, tried to gain a step on his defender, ran out of real estate going behind the net making a quick stop while still holding onto the puck, losing his defender in the process. Streaking down Broadway was his good friend “Doogie” as Svech calls him, then in a calm and cool motion threaded a pass between 2 sets of legs right on to Doogie’s tape, who banged it in for a great looking goal. Make that 3 goals on just 4 shots and the Canes all dialed in.

The Canes were maybe too selective on their shot attempts, coupled with better defense by the Preds as they only got off 2 more shots in the period while yielding 15 to keep Reims engaged in the game. 

Geekie Calls For Bank Shot

The only thing Roddy could have brought up during the first intermission was limiting shots on Reims. Normally it would be the Canes on top having such a widespread of shots on goals. Reimer was playing fantastic but Roddy wants a full 60 minutes of two-way hockey and not let the game slip away.

In the other locker room, Preds coach John Hynes had to be preaching to stay out of the box but make sure to follow through on every available hit to slow the Canes. Hitting they did as it seemed anytime a Cane was along the boards, they became very intimate with the glass. At 6:50 of the second, Nick Cousins got called for an ugly cross-check on Foegs into the boards.

With the second powerplay unit on the ice, El Nino and Jesper Fast won a poking match for the puck in the far corner. Pesch grabbed the puck at the far half-boards passed to Beaner at the top of the umbrella. Not seeing Quickie and El Nino in position yet, passed over to Geeks on the right.

With time on the extra man running down, Geeks skated into the low part of the near circle, sending a hard wrister that Rinne kicked out with his right pad but the puck hit the sake of Mattias Ekholm bouncing in for his second of the game and a solid 4-0 lead. The Canes didn’t take their feet off the gas as they got off their game-high 12 shots in the period.

The Preds didn’t score in the period and were limited to 8 shots on net however all shots were good, challenging Reimer from every angle. 

Necas Scores Off Nifty Pass By Svechnikov

The Predators are aptly named as they came out for blood in the third. Clearly, the direction was to hit anyone wearing a black sweater and toss as much rubber at Reims as possible with the hope that something can go in.

For the game, the Preds dished out 34 hits compared to just 21 for the Canes. Once again, the Canes were impressive in the faceoff circle 64% with Geeks winning an amazing 12 of 15. Geeks got the start as Vincent Trocheck got banged up during the last game.

Having these young players, most of which are “homegrown” in the Canes system, step in seamlessly is great and something the Canes haven’t had much success in the last. This is the time of the season that all or most teams will have top players out for a game or two and having players not only fill in but contribute in big ways is a formula for success. That ability also plays a key factor in what to do at the trade deadline.

Good chance the Canes won’t do anything as what they’re doing now is working just fine. At 3:40 Ben Harpur got called for another ugly cross-check on Svech. Svech is tough as nails and while he can take a hit as he did, there’s no need nor room for senseless hits like that in the game which has to get addressed by the league. Once again the Canes made the Preds pay the price, which is the best revenge, with a goal.

With the first PP unit on the ice, Martin Necas had the puck in the neutral zone, dumping it into the backboards. Not slowing down a bit, skated and retrieved the puck behind the defense banking it off the far boards up to Hamilton. Doogie looked to pass back, instead skated to the top center, passing left to Svech north of the faceoff circle.

Svech took a stride, had the puck attached to his stick for what seems to be his patented powerplay shot that everyone expected but made a sneaky pass to Necas in the dirty area who had his stick angled in the ice as a target. Svech sent a smooth pass hitting the target with the puck softly finding its way under Rinne’s pads barely crossing the line for the Canes final goal.

Canes Take the 5-1 Win

Reims had his shutout snuffed late in the third with about 4-½ minutes remaining, the Canes failed to clear the puck. Ekholm jumped on the available puck passed over to Cousins on the right point tossing the puck to the goal that found the back of the net when Reims’ view was blocked by Rem Pitlick. The win puts the Canes win streak at a season-high 7 games.

The next set of games are against the Red Wings when the Svechnikov and Staal brothers go at each other again.

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

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