Cary, NC — All due to the pandemic, this Saturday’s game was Justin Faulk’s first return to the PNC Arena since he was traded, and acknowledged a nice video of his play while a long time Hurricane. Faulker was a great Cane and it was good to see he has his career back on track, leading the Blues defensemen with 2 of the 3 goals they had as a unit.
Skjei—Finally—Nets First of the Season
Rod Brind’Amour started the Jordan Staal line who quickly had the puck in the Blues end while showing a high level of physicality.
One thing the Canes needed a do-over on from the previous night’s game was to stay out of the penalty box. There needs to be better stick control, especially along the boards when there’s a natural tendency to get sticks high. Doing that and playing a physical, fast game is tough to do. The Canes only had 10 hits all game so it was apparent they were trying to stay out of the box, but any opponent, and certainly future opponents, will realize they may have more space so balancing everything is a tough task.
On the second shift of the game, the Sebastian Aho line, of Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Seth Jarvis, was on the ice doing what they do best, raising the speed and intensity of the game which was matched by the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev. Svech had a great check in the neutral zone, stole the puck then passed over to Fishy along the far boards.
With time and space, Aho looked around and saw Brady Skjei speeding down the left side, making a gutsy cross-ice pass that hit Skjei in stride. He then picked the top shelf near-side to get the Canes on the board with just 1:15 gone in the game.
Lyon Fills in for Raanta Between the Pipes
Alex Lyon was in goal replacing Antti Raanta who was out with a concussion. Shortly after the Skjei goal, the Blues had a breakaway going in on Lyon alone but the whistle blew for an offside. The first shift of the Canes 4th line of Derek Stepan, Jordan Martinook and Josh Leivo brought that balance of physicality, energy and control.
Tony DeAngelo stopped a clear by Faulk and carried the puck down along the far boards, making a hard backhand cross to the crease with Stepan camped in front of Blues goalie, Joel Hofer. Hofer had the post covered then gloved the puck as Tony D’s facial expression indicated he wanted more than a goalie save.
A few minutes later, on a delayed penalty, DeAngelo took a shot from the high slot that hit Hofer in the chest. As the puck dropped to the ice, Svech dug the puck loose. Jarvis then used his quick reflexes to lift the puck over Hofer’s pads but for the second time in consecutive games on consecutive days, Jarvis’ second career goal was denied as the ref lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle too early.
Svech Heads to ‘Sin Bin’ for High-Sticking
Later in the first period, on a hard check behind the Blues goal, Svech got called for a high stick and wasn’t pleased with the call, coming ever so close to an unsportsmanlike call when he slammed his stick on the ice as he was headed into the box.
Only after seeing the play on replay did I agree it was a penalty and for a player that plays as hard as Svech, with a reputation of carrying his stick high, he won’t get a break until he keeps his stick lower. After he sees the replay, he’ll be the first to say he was wrong and needs to improve as he’s that honest of a player.
While on the ensuing powerplay, the Blues were keeping good pressure on Lyon. At one time, Lyon made a sliding save going left to right that had him fall on his belly with James Neal following the puck, swatting a backhander that appeared to hit Lyon’s pad but actually hit the side of the base of the net but still was a close call.
Aho Nets 6th of the Season, Puts Canes Up 2-0
Early in the second, Marco Scandella was called for his second tripping penalty of the game, this time on Tony D when he made another calculated jump into the O zone. With fresh ice and a rested first unit, the Caniacs were hoping for good things.
The Canes gave the Caniacs what they wanted that started with Fishy carrying the puck into the Blues’ end on the far side. Svech went low, getting the pass and quickly passing up to DeAngelo who played catch with Svech while Aho, Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen got into their positions.
On the second pass from Svech to DeAngelo, Tony D quickly passed over to Fishy with his stick in the slap shot position who unloaded a bomb of a shot that no goalie was going to react and stop that put the Canes up on a 2-0 lead.
Buchnevich Gets Blues in Game with Powerplay Goal
A couple of observations of Lyon was his rebound control needs improvement and his reaction time to recover needs to be quicker. The Blues cut the lead in half while on the powerplay due to Svech taking exception to Colton Parayko’s apparent hit from behind then grabbed him, knocking his helmet off as both were on the ice. The Caniacs let the refs know they slightly disagreed with the call of just one player being penalized.
On the Blues powerplay, the Canes had the early advantage when Aho and Turbo had a 2-on-1. Fishy had a great set up but Turbo’s shot went wide. With the puck traveling around the boards, the Blues took advantage of the turnover, methodically came down the right side, took a shot that Lyon saved with the rebound going in the sweet spot in the slot, that Thomas snared, quickly passing over to Pavelski Buchnevich on the left who had 20 of the 24 square feet to shoot into and buried it.
Minutes later, Skjei attempted to use his long reach to poke check the puck but got Tarasenko’s skates instead. No shame there as Tarasenko is as talented as they come. With Skjei, a key penalty killer in the box, everyone needed to step up and Lyon did just that. The Blues had a tic tax toe play with all 5 skaters touching and moving the puck fast with Lyon coming up with a huge save.
Just after an impressive kill, Fishy got a call for high sticking. Another key penalty killer in the box but credit Jaccob Slavin, Skjei, Trocheck and Steve Lorentz for another great kill.
Blues Knot the Tie Early in the Third
The Caniacs were thinking there were many similarities to the previous game: dominating the 5-on-5, too many penalties, solid 40 minutes and just a 1 goal lead headed into the third period.
The Blues are a very good hockey club with some extremely talented players. The Blues came out on fire, attacking the puck hard and never giving up. All expected by the Canes but the Blues were not to be denied. Thomas got a step on Fishy as the puck was on the far side of the net, crossed the puck above the crease to Barbashev with Tarasenko crashing the slot and made a pass to the top of the crease.
Lyon made the initial save off Tarasenko but the talented Russian knocked in his own rebound to tie the game. The coaches no doubt stressed no penalties for the third and both teams obliged. Every Caniac was on the edge of their seats, holding their breath on every shot as this was destined to be another one-goal game.
Smith Nets Game-Winner
Very late in the period, Martinook unveiled some speed to negate an icing call and calmly gathered the puck with his defender on his back, passing up to De Angelo in the high slot. Tony D passed over to Brendan Smith on the left point. Smith saw Marty, Leivo and 2 Blues clogging the lanes and unleashed a slap shot that somehow missed every ounce of humanity and found the back of the net with less than 3 minutes to go.
The Blues pulled Hofer and threw everything at Lyon but the netminder and the defense held strong giving the Canes the 3-2 win as they head into a long 6 game road trip with the next game the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a 1 PM game against Washington. Be there!