Canes Get 3 Valuable Points In Tampa Bay

Cary, NC — Coach Rod Brind’Amour said it best after they got a point Monday. Based on the Canes’ play through 2 periods, they probably didn’t deserve it, but he was happy with the team’s typical never say die attitude.

Canes Bounce Back But Lose in OT, 3-2 to Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning are missing a few key players, namely Steve Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, but are still one very potent team.

Kucherov is on LTIR which allows his salary to not go against the cap, but with his expected return shortly, how can they possibly have any cap room when they added more strength at the trade deadline? They, like a few other teams that will go unnamed at this time, must have the shrewdest accountants that would make Price Waterhouse jealous.

The Canes came back to tie the game at 2 after falling behind 2-0 only to lose it in overtime off a turnover in their end leaving Petr Mrazek out to dry.

First Place Could Be On The Line

Everyone knew this game could have more meaning about first place at the end of the season. The Canes entered the game with 62 points, 2 ahead of Tampa and 1 ahead of Florida.

There was a possibility all 3 teams could have been tied with 62 points after games Monday night, but with that mystery extra point for extra playing time, which rarely plays in the Canes favor as it did here, the mystery point helped the Canes tie with Florida for first with 2 games at hand.

There has been talk of modifying the point system for next season. The 2 options having the most talk at this time are (1) 3 points for a win in regulation, or 2 points for a win in OT or a SO with the loser getting 1 point or (2) 3 points for a win in regulation, 2 points for a win in OT and 1 point for a SO win with no points for losing. Either change would be really interesting as it places more emphasis to win in regulation, especially option 2.

Canes Play the Chasing Game, Get Down 0-1

The game was tough from the opening face-off. Warren Foegele registered the first hit of the game with just seconds gone, which was needed as the Canes were chasing rather than having any possession. That little hit seemed to jump-start the Canes as shortly thereafter, it was Dougie Hamilton who blasted the Canes first shot.

The fourth line on most teams is the energy line and that’s exactly what they did on their first shift. While keeping the puck in the Bolts end, Morgan Geekie and Cedric Paquette got shots off but not on net. Paquette also earned his first of a team co-leader 4 hits on the night, one of which was awesome.

Blake Coleman and Nino Niederreiter got the first penalties of the game after a brief skirmish with the refs sending a signal for a clean game. Midway in the period, the Canes had their first powerplay when Erik Cernak got his elbow high into the side of Sebastian Aho. The first unit was looking good but couldn’t get a shot off as Tampa Bay’s defense could double up and play for the Buccaneers as they’re so large.

The second unit only had 35 seconds of powerplay time but did manage a shot at, this season’s likely Vezina Trophy leading candidate, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made the glove save. Just under the 15-minute mark, after a turnover in the Bolts end, the puck was loose in the neutral zone. Tyler Johnson was quicker to the puck than any Cane and realized only 2 Canes had a defensive position. As they closed in on him, another forward went off for an ill-advised line change and skooched the puck to the middle for Alex Killorn who went in on Mrazek all alone. Killorn faked forehand then lifted a backhander over the glove for the 1-0 Bolt lead.

Canes Start Second Period Flat, Bolts Extend Lead

The Canes, possibly feeling lucky they were down by only one after a sub-par Canes performance in the first, started the second period like it was an extension of the first, flat.

Vincent Trocheck got an early holding penalty in which the refs had to see something beyond what any replay showed. If anything, his stick may have been up on the hands for a millisecond. The Bolts’ first powerplay unit was impressive.

With the puck going around the umbrella with ease as the Canes kept a tight circle, Victor Hedman made a pass from the left point to Brayden Point sitting alone on the crease who quickly passed to Alex Barre-Boulet for a tip-in, but Mrazek came up big.

Point got the rebound and rimmed the puck back up to Hedman who passed to Ondrej Palat on the right point. Palat saw Point get a position in the high crease area and made a pass that Point tipped in for a pretty goal for a solid 2-0 lead.

Svechnikov Pots Powerplay Goal off Hamilton’s Feed

The only saving grace the Canes had was there was plenty of time left in the game and with Roddy barking words of encouragement behind the bench, the Canes knew they had to go to Plan B, which is their normal Plan A.

If anything, the physicality worked for the Canes to get back in the game. New Cane Jani Hakanpaa was very engaged and physically matching Paquette with 4 hits, 2 of which the receiver looked back for a license plate number.

Cernak got his second penalty of the game interfering with Jesper Fast on a cut to the goal. The first faceoff of the powerplay didn’t lead to any clear possession as the puck squeaked out from under a pile-up in the circle. Troch was trying to get the puck but had his stick held, (yes—no call) was brought down with a defender kicking the puck out.

Hamilton fetched the puck and went to the top of the key to allow the Canes to set up. He slipped a pass over to Andrei Svechnikov on the left who took a stride and sent a hard wrister far side about 15” off the ice to get the Canes on the board. This was Svech’s third goal in 3 consecutive games.

The Lightning are the defending Cup Champs for a reason, they have an excellent coach in Jon Cooper, and never give up. They continued pressure the rest of the period, getting off a game-high 16 shots in the period with Mrazek stopping everything.

Skjei’s Unassisted Goal Sends Game Into OT

The third period was classic Canes hockey, starting hard from the drop of the initial puck with relentless forechecking in all 3 zones.

Early in the period, Brett Pesce had the puck in the neutral zone in front of the Bolts’ bench then rimmed a hard pass just before the blue line. As the puck came around to the near side, Quickie and 2 defenders got tangled with the puck squirting out above the circle. Brady Skjei swooped up the puck, skated to the mid slot, and with Fishy providing a great screen, sent a wrister low that found the back of the net to tie the game.

Great time for Skjei’s second goal of the season, setting up the third period for a hard battle. For the next 7 minutes, both teams had more hits than shots, with the biggest being an open-ice hit by Killorn that flattened Martin Necas. Replays showed Killorn ever so slightly left his feet and led with an elbow to Necas’ chin. Jake Gardiner, realizing the men wearing black and white striped sweaters weren’t raising an arm for either penalty, immediately went for the on-ice justice and fought Killorn, with every Cane okay with the extra 2 minutes for instigating the brawl.

Bolts Take Game with OT Goal, Ending 3-2

The Canes PK units were solid with Mrazek coming up with 2 great saves. The remainder of regulation was cautiously played by both teams by being aggressive, but not to the point where a penalty could be called. In OT, it was Necas that had the Canes’ best chance with a hard shot that Vasilevskiy had to stop with his left pads.

When play went down to the Canes end, Killorn tried to flip the puck over Pesce’s stock, but the defenseman quickly swatted the puck out of the air, collected it, and passed it to Fishy along the boards. Killorn followed the play and got tied up with Fishy with the puck skooching loose to the center where Yanni Gourde was all alone.

Gourde took a stride and sent the puck 5-hole, which Mrazek stopped, but Gourde swiped the rebound in for the OT winner. The Canes did get the extra mystery point to remain in first place but it sure set up the rematch just 24 hours later to be a real battle for their 8th and final game during the regular season.

Game 2: Canes Win Backend 4-1 With Impressive 2nd Period

Rod Brind’Amour is really getting tired of answering questions if playing Tampa Bay or Florida is like a playoff game. Roddy always has the end result in mind, that being the Stanley Cup, but focuses on the today rather than the tomorrow, or in reality the next few weeks, as he believes and preaches to his team that by taking care of today’s game and opponent, is the most important task and if successful today, every day, then tomorrow (the playoffs and eventual Stanley Cup) will happen.

Coming off a less than acceptable game less than 24 hours earlier was a perfect way to put that one in the “needs improvement” file of the brain and make those improvements going forward. Improve they did as the Canes, with an impressive second period, beat the Lightning 4-1 to stay tied with the Panthers, who also won, in first place, getting 3 out of the 4 possible points (including the mystery extra point).

A Highly Physical, Yet Scoreless First Period

As expected, both teams carried the chip on their shoulders from the night before as the checking, hits and cheap shots were all noticeably more active. Just the jostling for position by the wingers on faceoffs was keeping all officials busy separating players and stopping potential problems.

The game was going to be a match of who was in better shape as the game the night before was also physical. This second game had more 200’ rushes along with physicality as it became a rush after either goalie saved or missed shots the entire length of the ice. Then after another save, block or missed shot, it was back down to the other end. It made line changes all that more important and several times you could see a player hanging a leg over the boards for a change only to swing it back as the play just wasn’t allowing for smooth changes.

With every minute that passed, the teams liked each other less. Ondrej Palat knocked Sebastian Aho in the head with a stick that was totally avoidable and got caught, giving the Canes the game’s first powerplay.

Nedeljkovic Solid, Trocheck Draws Last-Second Penalty

The first unit was looking fairly good, getting off passes but not in the fastest motion, which allowed the Bolts to always line up in position. Andrei Svechnikov, on a 3 game goal-scoring streak, took a shot that Andrei Vasilevskiy saved with the puck going up to Dougie Hamilton on the right point.

Hamilton let go a bomb that went wide of the net that Erik Cernak went to gather along the backboards. Just as Cernak was getting a stick near the puck, Svech checked Cernak’s stick that appeared to be legal but the refs called it slashing offsetting the powerplay after only a minute gone.

Both Alex Nedeljkovic and Vasilevskiy were busy throughout the period, matching save for impressive save.

Ned has used the Mrazek injury as an opportunity to showcase why the Canes drafted him back in the second round in 2014. He’s a legitimate NHL goalie and probably solidified a place on the team next season even with being an RFA. Just as the buzzer ended the period, the dislike for each other reared its ugly head as Mikhail Sergachev slashed Vincent Trocheck across the shins in a dumb move that saw Troch turn, smile, and say a few words while the ref called for the penalty.

Niederreiter Breaks The Game Open

Having new ice and a full 2 minutes of powerplay at the start of the second was a perfect opportunity to have the Canes strike first, but all they could muster was 3 shots that Vasilevskiy saved with either the blocker or pads.

The 200’ game continued, which was providing some very good and entertaining hockey. On one rush for the Canes, Troch carried the puck through the neutral zone, going across the blue line on the far side. He continued down to the half boards, always eyeing linemates. As he caught a glimpse of Nino Niederreiter on the right-wing, cutting towards the center, Troch made the crisp pass right to the tape of El Nino, who had a stride on his man.

Niederreiter noticed Vasilevskiy was sliding to the far side, then flung a hard shot to the near side of the net for a wise veteran goal. At the ensuing faceoff, you could see Jordan Martinook and Barclay Goodrow jawing at each other, probably not asking how each family is doing.

Just as the ref dropped the puck, both dropped their gloves. Marty is a team-first type of guy, is not known for being a fighter but would never turn down an opportunity to stand up for anyone wearing the same sweater. They both got the usual 5-minute majors to cool off and the message the refs wanted to send was well received as the rest of the period was penalty-free. But, certainly not goal-free.

Staal & Lorentz Follow Suit, Extending Lead to 3-0

When the faceoff was repeated, Jordan Staal won the drawback to Hamilton. Hamilton held the puck until the forwards got to the blue line then dumped the puck deep. Jordo out muscled Yanni Gourde behind the net for the puck, sending it up along the boards. Nino, Warren Foegele and 2 Bolts were battling along the half boards when Nino snatched the puck, sending up to Hamilton on the right point.

Gourde and Jordo were still battling low with Jordo going to the dirty area in front of the crease. Gourde kept on smacking Jordo in the back with cross-check after cross-check that just couldn’t move the big captain. Hamilton sent another bomb that Jordo ticked with his stick just as he got another cross-check to the back, but the sweetness of seeing the puck rip the back of the net was worth the pain.

Later in the period, the energy line of Steve Lorentz, Morgan Geekie, and Cedric Paquette were doing what they do best and were just non-stop. Overall, all 3 had an excellent game and didn’t have one bad shift. On this particular shift, Geekie intercepted a Bolt pass in his end and carried the puck all the way into the Bolts’ end.

Geekie flipped a pass over his defender’s stick to Paquette who was covered then forced to the backboards, joined by Geekie and his defender. Geekie won the puck made a swift backhand pass to Lorie in the near circle. With a step on his man and time, Lori picked the far side and wristed the puck for his second NHL goal.

The Bolts immediately answered, as great teams do, with Cane killer, Brayden Point potting a nice tip-in just 18 seconds after Lorie’s goal. The Canes got off 14 shots in the second which, against the Bolts, has to be a high amount.

Skjei Feels Effects of Dirty Hit, Roddy Hopes for Review

Roddy did not shorten his bench in the third. One reason is he couldn’t as Brady Skjei was boarded in the first with, of course, no call and only played 8:32 with the likelihood of a concussion. Hopefully, the NHL will review that hit and take appropriate action against the player and demerits against the refs. That was a bad no call. Skjei tried to play in the second but took himself out of the game after one shift, still feeling the effects of being hit face-first into the boards.

After the game, Roddy, who stays as far away from that fine line as possible, didn’t mince words that after several replays, that was a textbook boarding penalty and he hoped the NHL safety committee would review the hit. The third period would be a great video for forechecking by two very good forechecking teams. Shots ended up at 9 apiece, of which, all 9 shots were earned and again both goalies played outstandingly.

Ned’s anticipation seems to get more impressive every game. He says he calls his mom and dad after every game and, like most sports parents, probably give him pointers that he takes to heart. Svech got another quasi-slashing penalty which he knows he’s a marked player by the refs and admits all calls were true penalties and stick control is something he has to work on.

In time, like certain other skilled veterans, for these light calls, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt. He does know his stick is the cause of both his success and downfall and constantly works on both.

Martinook Seals the 4-1 Win With Long Shot

The teams pounded out 20 hits in the third with the hits more in-line with solid forechecking rather than intent to injure or send into next week. The Canes’ defense was the #1 star for this game in my mind.

With Skjei going down, every other D-man stepped up big. Brett Pesce stopped a sure goal on one play when he was behind the play with 2 Bolts going down each lane when Pesch threw his body with the stick extended to block a centering pass that could have been an easy goal.

Newcomer Jani Hakanpaa probably did something outside his comfort zone when he not only joined a rush one time, but was also camped out in front of the net, in Staal fashion. Jaccob Slavin stole the puck so many times, I’m surprised the Florida State Police weren’t called. He looked as fresh at the end of the game as he did in the beginning and has to be a leading candidate for the Selke Award.

Jake Gardiner also had a solid game and like Hakanpaa, picked a perfect time to join the rush. Jon Cooper pulled his goalie a little later than I thought he would, giving the Bolts the extra skater. The Bolts did a good job keeping the puck in the Canes end but with just seconds left in the game, Sebastian Aho intercepted the puck and passed to Martinook at the Canes’ blue line. Marty took a stride then sent a shot 105’ in the air that hit the back of the net with 3 seconds left to seal the win — a solid team win.

The next series is in Panthers territory this Thursday and Saturday. Should be interesting since they share first place with the Canes.

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

All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.