Cary, NC — What a weekend for Hurricanes goalie Alex Nedelkovic, he gets engaged on Friday and registers his first point with the main assist on Dougie Hamilton’s goal for a 2-1 overtime win against a persistent Columbus Blue Jackets team on Saturday.
Like the Red Wings a couple of nights ago, the Blue Jackets have been eliminated from the playoffs for a while now but are no pushover. They lost their captain at the trade deadline and, like all professionals, have pride and hate to lose.
They don’t expect to lose any game and for many, including probably the best, and certainly the most opinionated American-born coach, John Tortorella, are working for new contracts, so there is no quit in their game.
Canes Get the Early Eye-Opener from Jackets
The Canes started strong, winning the first two faceoffs and won an unbelievable 64% overall during the game, and with their possession style, it all starts with winning the faceoff.
Very early in the first, Oliver Bjorkstrand gathered the puck after blocking a shot by Jake Bean and went up ice with it into the Canes’ end. Just as he thought he passed Bean in the near circle to the right of Ned for a shot, Beaner extended his stick, blocking the shot and deflecting the puck behind the net.
Warren Foegele slapped the puck against the backboards with Eric Robinson sneaking in for possession before sending the puck along the far back right of the net. He skated behind the net, passing up to the crease. The puck hit Beaner’s skate and headed to the far side of the crease where Max Domi went in unchecked for the stuff to put the Jackets up 1-0.
An early wake-up call that had Coach Rod Brind’Amour pulling down his mask to emphasize how the play would need to improve. To a player, every Cane did seem to have an extra pep in their step after that. Roddy is a player’s coach and the dedication goes both ways — each player would walk through a wall for Roddy and likewise, Roddy would (easily) walk through a wall for any player.
Slavin Makes Highlight-Reel Leg Save
In the 13th minute, Jaccob Slavin made the play of the game.
With the Jackets having numbers in the Canes end, Emil Bemstrom had the puck inside the far circle. With the only 2 defenders closing in on him, he flipped the puck cross-ice to Jack Roslovic all alone on the inside perimeter of the near circle.
Ned slid all the way across the crease, pinching out to the top corner of the crease when Roslovic made a perfect pass back to Bemstrom looking at a completely open net. He settled the puck ever so quickly when Birthday boy Slavo threw his leg out making an unbelievable save that will make every NHL highlight reel.
This was a crucial stop as that would have put the Jackets up 2-0.
Teravainen’s Bomb Ties It
The first line of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen was having a great night, almost shooting at will, especially if Slavo and Hamilton were the paired D-men.
Late in the period, Svech stickhandled the puck over his blue line, passed 2 Jackets, and banked the puck up to Fishy at the Jackets’ red line. Fishy eyed the terrain and saw Svech split between 2 defenders, heading for the dirty area of the crease. Then he saw Turbo flying through the neutral zone and timed a cross-ice pass just so with Turbo blasting a one-timer from 40’ out to tie the game.
Nedelkovic and Elvis Haven’t Left The Building
The Canes had a great opportunity to break the game open with 1:57 seconds of a powerplay on fresh ice to start the second period while Domi sat out for cross-checking Jordan Staal late in the first. Guaranteed Torts addressed that penalty during the intermission.
As we all know from experience, looks aren’t everything. The Canes powerplay looked great but couldn’t get one by Elvis Merzlikins. Torts is a very good coach when some need attitude adjustments and can squeeze everything from players. Torts is also the type that makes for a good coach who will let players know when and what needs to improve.
Whether injuries were being nursed or not, there were a couple of strong Jackets players who were not in the lineup for this game. In the second period, the Jackets’ play picked up, limiting the Canes to a game-low 5 shots on net. Whether it was just that period or the overall game, the Jackets came out feeling the Canes stole the win as they thought they were the better team.
Roddy might agree on that to a point but might also add that good teams find a way to win, which is also saying they’ll also find a way not to lose.
Ned had a busy period and made several difficult saves almost look easy.
We forget that Ned has been in the Canes organization going on 8 years and is a solid NHL goalie. He is an RFA after this season, and with both Reims and Mrazek UFAs, odds are in Ned’s favor he’ll be one of maybe two that gets a Canes’ contract after the season.
Hamilton Wins It In OT — 101 Seconds Of Great Man-Down Defense
Addressing the drop in shots on net, the Canes responded with 12 in the third and of those 12, several were Grade A scoring chances. On the reverse side of the puck, the Jackets had their game-high of 11 shots with Ned having a period to remember as he was unbeatable.
Besides the save by Slavo, one other game change was in the 7th minute when Fishy got a call for hooking then, just 18 seconds later, when the Jackets lobbed the puck into the Canes end, Warren Foegele swatted the puck about 12’ in the air into the stands for a delay of game, giving the Jackets 101 seconds of a two-man advantage.
While there would be “plenty” of time left if the Jackets scored on the gift, the shutdown of those power plays was huge.
Slavo was on the ice for the entire time while Brett Pesce was close, with about a full 2 minutes. Roddy was quick in the post-game interview to give credit to two of the most under-recognized players in the NHL and if the read was right, maybe some jealousy of not having the opportunity to play with them.
With the game tied after regulation, Roddy once again went with Jordo to take the first faceoff. On cue, Jordo won the initial draw, giving the Canes possession. After the centers changed, Fishy hopped over the boards and had the puck bouncing. He turned the puck over twice but was able to have two takeaways to regain possession then got off the first shot in OT.
On his first shift, Dougie Hamilton was able to get a shot off but was blocked by Vladislav Gavrikov. The teams had a couple of methodical approaches to their offensive ends with each getting a shot off and the goalies coming up solid. After stopping a shot by Roslovic, Ned dropped the puck and looked up ice. Then, as he put it, Ned “saw a big red sweater” in the neutral zone and sent a hard bank shot past a Jacket right onto Hamilton’s stick in the neutral zone.
Dougie turned on his jets and stickhandled over the puck 8 times before stuffing a backhander off the right post for a pretty OT goal with Dougie making a beeline to Ned, recognizing the key play he just made. A good win for the Canes and like the Red Wings, the Jackets have always played hard against the Canes, winning 3 of the 8 games this season.
Next up in the homestand is tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks — the first of a 3-game series in 4 days. Go Canes!
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