Cary, NC — For the first time since moving to Raleigh, the Carolina Hurricanes will be in the playoffs for the third consecutive year after stealing a point in a 4-3 overtime loss against last season’s Stanley Cup runner-up, Dallas Stars.
Game 1: Canes Lose In OT, 4-3, But Clinch Playoff Spot
In post-game interviews, players were asked what the emotion was in the locker room: jubilant over making the playoffs or upset over losing the game. Their collective reaction was the same — “a loss is a loss and with everyone in the locker room being competitive, no one likes to lose but yeah, making the playoffs is nice.”
Rod Brind’Amour’s answer was slightly different. “We don’t like to lose but I’m extremely proud of this group as they made the playoffs with 8 games remaining. That’s never happened before.”
Responding to a follow-up question about feeling the pressure is off, Roddy’s response was typical Roddy:
“We expect to win all 8 remaining games,” said Brind’Amour.
Stars’ Benn Brought His A-Game
For the second game in a row, the Canes started the game with 6 players not on the active roster at the beginning of the season. The Canes on the injured list could be starters for most other teams but this is the time of each season that injuries affect just about every team. Dallas was also without some top talent so adjusting to new players and having those new players adjust to the team’s system is a challenge.
The Canes dug a hole early on.
After Jordan Staal won the initial faceoff and got the puck into the Stars’ end, Jamie Benn of the Stars was carrying the puck over his own blue line. Dougie Hamilton held out his long arms and got a call for holding with just 16 seconds gone. The Stars converted on the powerplay for the early lead on a pileup in the crease and a creative play by the best 205th player drafted in NHL history, Joe Pavelski.
The play was set up by Benn, who had a phenomenal game. He received a pass below the goal line, passed up to rookie Jason Robertson in front of the crease and tried to stuff it past James Reimer. Robertson was assisted to the ice by Jani Hakanpaa with both players landing half on Reims and half on the ice.
The ref was in an excellent position to see that the puck was still loose and allowed play to continue. When Pavelski grabbed the puck from a negative angle, it bounced off Hakanpaa into the net for his 4th powerplay goal against the Canes this season.
2 Squandered Canes Powerplays, 2 Goals for the Stars
That goal was an early wake-up call for the Canes to keep out of the box as much as possible. Point well taken as the Canes did not have another penalty all game. The Stars play a “heavy” game, meaning they will never pass up an opportunity to introduce a Cane to the boards. The Stars are a well-built team with size both upfront and in the back along with speed and talent.
Robertson may not win rookie of the year but will certainly be in the running as he’s an excellent player. Roddy had more of a balance for all 4 lines, maybe because they’ll have a rematch the next night. Also probably because the 4th line was not only providing energy but was spending more time in the Stars’ end with a few solid shots on Stars netminder, Jake Oettinger.
The Canes squandered 2 powerplays in the period, neither of which looked good by either the first or second units.
Late in the period, Benn had the puck in the near corner of the Canes’ end and passed up to Esa Lindell on the rowdy point. Lindell flung the puck to the net, hitting Jason Dickinson’s boot just as he was turning, deflecting the puck just so, and landing it in net. A close call of a kicking motion but Roddy didn’t challenge the call.
McCormick, Slavin Make it a Tie Game…Briefly
The second period started with the Canes at a 2-0 deficit. It turned out to be a continuation of the first with both teams effective on the forechecking with most shots the type goalies like to see. Most shots but not all.
Midway in the period, The Canes forced a turnover in the neutral zone with Brett Pesce gaining control and going back to his blue line. He passed to Cedric Paquette just over the red line. Paquette touched the puck making it a legal dump with Morgan Geekie building speed as he crossed the Stars blue line.
Geeks got the puck at the backboards a stride ahead of his defender and made a sweet backhand pass to the side of the net. The puck hit his defender’s stick, popping in the air about 5′. McCormick was planted in the batter’s box waiting for the puck to cross below the 4′ level then hit a line drive for his first goal as a Cane.
Three minutes later, the Canes had what can be called a team goal. As the Canes’ first line had the puck in the Stars end, Andrew Cogliano lost his stick while covering Jaccob Slavin. Slavo had the puck in the top center in front of the blue line then passed over to Sebastian Aho. With the entire Canes bench yelling that Cogliano lost his stick, Fishy passed back to Slavo who was on the far side.
Slavo, in a smooth manner, carried the puck across the ice toward the near side to allow for a better shot against the stick-less defender.
The plan worked well and just as Slavo got to the near circle he picked the far corner to tie the game. The tied game didn’t last long.
The Canes had what looked like an easy clear of their zone as Jake Gardiner had both time and space then made a diagonal cross-ice bank pass that was intercepted by Benn. Benn handled the puck into the Canes’ zone then passed to Denis Gurianov who blasted a one-timer to give the Stars the lead again.
Hakanpaa Sends Game Into OT
After alternating 14 and 11 shots each for the first two periods, the teams were more selective on shots in the third as most shots were resulting in turnovers.
The Canes’ top line certainly wasn’t having their best game which was more because of the extremely tight checking by the Stars. It got to the point of that line having difficulty making 2 successful passes in the offensive zone. Likewise, their forechecking was also making it difficult for the Stars’ top line to make consecutive passes that connected.
Shots overall in the third were scarce as the Canes only had 7 while limiting the Stars to a game low of 5.
Players on both teams were trying to make plays happen, carrying the puck between 2 opposing players, making long passes with everything being done with respect to where they were on the ice. No foolish or risky plays were on your own end, try those in the O-zone and if a turnover happens, no immediate catastrophe.
Late in the period, Hakanpaa won a battle in the neutral zone then passed to Warren Foegele just north of the Stars’ blue line. Foegs brought the puck in the Stars’ end along the far boards, quickly flipping the puck over a stick onto Staal’s. Jordo went to the top slot area and passed over to Geeks on the right. He stopped and passed against the grain up to Hakanpaa just as he crossed the blue line.
The big guy slammed the puck that was going to go wide by 2′ but hits former Cane, Sami Vatanen, in the chest and goes in to tie the game sending it to overtime.
Stars Take the 4-3 Win, Canes Steal a Point
In OT, the strategy for everyone is possession. The Canes won the possession stat having the puck for 2-½ minutes but lost the game. Vincent Trocheck had the puck along the far half-boards dangling left, right, frontwards and backward, killing time for a Canes line change.
Robertson timed a check, knocked Troch down to the ice and stocked the puck. With only Nino Niederreiter back, Benn joined Robertson for a 2-on-1.
Benn got the flip pass, faked right, then sent a backhander under Reims for the OT winner with only 7 seconds of possession.
The Canes really stole a point tonight as the Stars were the better team and beat the Canes on every category setting up the next night’s rematch to be another tough game.
Game 2: Staal Leads Canes to 5-1 Win Over Stars
During the pregame interview, Rod Brind’Amour again said how proud he was for everyone in the locker room for clinching a playoff spot with 8 games, or as Roddy puts it, 16 more points to win.
As a player, Rod approached each game as if it was game 7 of a playoff series, leaving nothing in the tank after a game. After a lackluster performance the night before, Roddy more than likely didn’t mention the previous game but had everyone dialed into this game.
Teuvo Teravainen made a surprise start for his first game since March and only his second in 33 games all due to a concussion. He’ll join Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and hopefully, that line will find the same magic they had very early in the season.
One other change is Rod is going with 12 forwards for 4 full lines and 6 D-men changing from the 11 and 7 the night before. More likely it was a combination of all the above as the Canes won the back end of back-to-back games, 5-1, with captain Jordan Staal getting 2 goals, while Svech had a career-high 3 assists.
Staal, Aho Open Scoring
It’s not that the previous game was all that bad, but Rod has set the bar high with complete buy-in from the entire team and the difference in the Canes’ play from the initial faceoff was markedly improved.
Jordo lost the first faceoff but wanted to send a message that this game was going to be different as he registered two solid hits within the first minute. The message was received by both benches as by the end of the game, the Canes doled out 25 hits to just 19 for the Stars who normally play a more physical game.
Jordo had it all going on in the first, actually all game, as his aggressive play drew a high sticking penalty from John Klingberg at the 6:02 mark. The first PP unit was having great passing in the Stars’ end and might have stayed on the ice longer than planned as they kept the puck in the O-zone.
Vincent Trocheck had the puck along the near half-boards, just inside the circle, and looked to the crease area but passed up to Dougie Hamilton on the right point. Hamilton is a shot machine but didn’t have a clear path deciding instead to pass left to Andrei Svechnikov on the left point.
Svech had space, took a stride or two, picked a corner, and sent one of his patented hard wristers that hit Sebastian Aho’s skate with the big center, Jordo, in the perfect spot to slap it home for the early 1-0 lead and the Canes never looked back.
A minute later, the Canes were in the midst of a line change that led to their second goal. Warren Foegele had the puck in the far corner to the right of former Cane and current Stars goalie Anton Khudobin and rimmed the puck to the near side before heading to the bench. Svech tomahawked the puck ahead of his defender up to Brett Pesce on the right point.
Pesch skated backward towards the center, always eyeing the crease, then blasted a bomb that Khudobin kicked right. Fishy replaced Foegs and made a dash onto the ice. With the puck all teed up, he took out his driver and one-timed a slapper that Dhobi had no chance on to add to the lead.
Staal Connects For Second Powerplay Goal
The Canes had a great opportunity to add to their lead as they had about a minute and a half remaining of the delay of game penalty by Radek Faksa and who wants to pass up a great opportunity on new ice. Certainly not Jordan Staal. Hamilton carried the puck deep along the right side, couldn’t make a safe pass to the crease area then made a gutsy cross-ice pass to Svech on the left side above the near circle.
On the set play, Svech quickly passed up to Fishy at the high slot who put a bomb just over the crossbar. The puck careened off the backboards to the blue area of the crease with Jordo anchored in front to swat it in for his second PP goal of the game a solid 3-0 lead. The Stars need points more than the Canes and weren’t rolling over.
The Canes were clearing the puck out of their zone with Turbo getting the puck in the neutral zone. Practice is practice, but game situations are different and Turbo was knocked off the puck by Joe Pavelski, quickly got back up to backhand the puck back to Jani Hakanpaa. The problem was Hakanpaa was skating backward, stretched barely touching the puck that the Stars picked up, and sent it to Alex Nedelkovic.
Ned made the save but couldn’t hold onto the rebound with a scrum starting for the puck, rookie Jason Robertson charged in and pushed it in to get the Stars on the board to extend his scoring streak to 9 games. This kid gets more impressive the more he plays and will be in the top three for rookie of the year. Svech got the Canes only penalty of the period with a delay of game after hitting the puck over the glass but the PK units were solid all night.
McCormick, Niederreiter Close Scoring
With Roddy balancing all lines to allow proper rest, he had the fourth line doing what they do best, providing energy. Steve Lorentz got the puck in the neutral zone dumping the puck deep. Morgan Geekie stepped on the gas, got to the puck along the boards behind the goal, made a quick backhand pass to the slot that Max McCormick knocked in for his second goal in as many games.
His excitement over that goal was outstanding. Midway in the period, Foegs had the puck deep in the Stars end then passed behind the goal to Jordo. Jordo used his body to protect the puck then made a cross-ice pass that somehow landed on the stick of Nino Niederreiter who wasted no time in banging it in for the 5th goal and Staal’s 3rd point of the night.
Great come-back game for the Canes who start a 4 game homestand on Thursday.
All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.