Raleigh, NC — Last night the Canes returned to play at home in what seemed like the first time in forever, between the All-Star break and a not too impressive 4-game road trip.
On top of this, the Canes went up against the hottest team in the East, the Florida Panthers, who not only ended the Canes 9-0 run to start the season but had won the previous two games of the 3-game season series.
So, with all that background, if I were a betting man and had Kelly’s money, I might have bet the Canes were going to win this game.
This game had to hurt the Canes players as they played well enough to win. Actually, both teams did as this was an excellent game to watch. However, to either be even or ahead for the entire regulation time to lose it overtime on a play that caught the Canes flat-footed— ouch.
Teravainen Swipes One In Late in the First
The Panthers could very well be the team in the East the Canes have to beat to make the Stanley Cup finals. Like the Canes, they’re solid in every position and as Panther coach Andrew Brunette recently said he has 5, yes 5, forward lines that could be at least the top 3 lines of any NHL team.
The +/- stat is not a real solid indicator of a player’s contribution for a variety of reasons, but having a lineup with 8 players +20 or better is unbelievable. The Canes’ highest +/- is 15, Turbo and Tony DeAngelo. Use 15 as a number to track and the Cats now have 12 players. They have 20% more goals (32) than the Canes yet have yielded about 25% more (27) than the Canes stingy defense gave up.
The Canes’ penalty kill had another perfect night, 5-for-5, while the Powerplay, with a golden opportunity of a full 2 minutes of a 5-on-3, came up with a goose egg.
Brett Pesce had the first penalty of the game on a trip by the rule book but in the area that describes weak trips vs. poor skating, this could have been used as a pictorial example. Nonetheless, the Canes PK was strong, with Frederik Andersen called upon to make just one save.
Andrei Svechnikov seemed to be in the crosshairs in the first which is fine as he likes a physical game but after he was hit from behind not once but twice on the same shift, tempers started to flare resulting in offsetting roughing penalties for the 4-on-4 play.
During that 4-on-4, Jaccob Slavin was all over the ice, stealing the puck in his defensive zone, quickly going up ice then making a perfect pass to Turbo only to have Sergei Bobrovsky make a better save. It was just 28 seconds after those penalties ended that the Canes had that golden opportunity.
First Ryan Lomberg got called for roughing against Jesperi Kotkaniemi and as everyone came in to call order to the situation, Patric Hornqvist cross-checked Svech from behind into the Cats bench as the door was open. One of the old hockey sayings is if you score on a 5-on-3 odds are you win the game, if you don’t allow a goal on the 5-on-3, you’ll win the game.
Dang if that didn’t turn out to be true. Contrary to what seems a normal thing, the Canes were the team to score a goal in the last minute. Sebastian Aho had the puck behind the goal, saw Turbo slide towards the inside far perimeter of the face-off circle to Bob’s left, made the pass with Turbo swiping it in from a bad angle for a very pretty goal.
Panthers Tie It In The Second
Early in the second with the fourth line on the ice, the Canes had the puck deep in the Cats end. First Slavo took a shot from the point that had Bob go down to make a pad save but the puck squilled right.
With Bob down on the ice KK had an open net backhanding the puck for the ‘easy’ goal but Lucas Carlsson dove to the front of the net with the shaft of his stick deflecting the puck up. Steve Lorentz was in a perfect position, camped on the corner of the crease then did his Derek Jeter impression batting the puck in the air to the semi-open goal.
Carlsson was flat on the ice with his stick verticals and as luck would have it, the puck hit Carlson’s stick again for another highlight-reel moment.
In the 13th minute, Aleksander Barkov went in the Canes end with Brady Skjei on defense. Barkov did a dip set doodle play between his legs beating Skjei sending a backhander that fooled Andersen going in the far side to tie the game.
Barkov is a world-class player but you have to think both Skjei and Andersen would have wanted another shot at that play. As Svech was the Cats’ target in the first, it seems Ian Cole had that designation in the second. Cole is a tough nut player who stands his ground, yielding little. He was always that way against the Canes and had to be a reason President and GM Don Waddell wanted him on the team.
Cole certainly doesn’t have a long fuse but it’s nowhere near short so when he got 2 back to back penalties within minutes of each other, something had to spark the reaction.
DeAngelo Puts Canes Ahead
Early in the third, Tony D turned on his jets entering the Cats zone along the far boards, but not having a shot, carried the puck low. As he was getting along the boards behind the goal his stick was whacked out of his hands, no call of course, but Nino Niederreiter was quick to use his strength to keep the puck tied up along the boards waiting for help.
Jordan Staal was more than willing to help, joined the tie-up coming away with the puck behind the net, protected the puck with his body then sent a pass off the near boards to Tony D on the left point. Tony D settled the puck, skated a stride or two backward sending a slap shot into traffic as Jesper Fast was parked in the slot. Gustav Forsling was guarding Quickie with the shot hitting his right skate, redirecting high into the far upper corner to give the Canes the 2-1 lead.
From then on, it was mostly pressure coming from the Cats. It’s not their normal game, but it appeared the Canes were usually sending just one forward deep, rarely two, didn’t appear ever all 3.
Cats Force and Win In OT
That reduction of forechecking apparently had a big correlation to having only 2 shots on net, with DeAngelo’s goal being one. Late in the period with about 2:35 remaining, Brunette pulled Bob for the extra skater. Most competitive games are games of inches and this one was a 4” game.
In clearing the puck from just the canes side of the red line, Staal got the puck deep but was hit just as he was on his follow through with the puck touching the outside of the post, 4” to the right and the game was on ice. With 48.4 seconds left, Sam Reinhart knocked in a rebound off a blocked shot to tie the game.
When Rod Brind’Amour put Slavo, Turbo and Staal on the ice for the first shift of the OT, I thought that was a great selection. And it was. However after the Canes lost control of the puck in the Cats’ end, too much space was given to Jonathan Huberdeau who easily made a head man pass to Aaron Ekbald who realized Turbo had his back turned yielding 20’ of space.
Ekbald went in on Andersen, stick handling back and forth then squeezing a backhander between the blocker and pads for the win with just 16 seconds gone on the OT. Tough loss and also gives the Panthers the 3 game sweep over the Canes this season.
The next game is Friday against the Nashville Predators. Be there!
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