With both the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins coming off stinging losses, it was the coach’s job to get their teams ready, along with their better players, to lead their respective teams. From the drop of the first puck, you could sense the importance of this game, as it was a battle with no one yielding an inch in a game where inches can determine the outcome. The stars did their jobs, with the Canes exploding with 3 goals in an action-packed third period to come out with a hard-earned 4-2 win.
Crosby and Raanta Star In The First
The Penguins restocked their team since last season with at least 5 new players, topped with the signing of Erik Karlsson to a multi-year $10 million contract. Due to cap restrictions, they can only have 22, versus the allowed 23, on their active roster. Late in the season, this could be a problem. Knowing each team needed to turn things around, it was the Canes that had the hotter start, spending the first 90 seconds in the Pens end, testing Tristan Jarry early. On the Pens’ first offensive push, Vinnie Hinostroza skated hard along the far boards, and made a sharp turn to the middle before letting go a wicked shot that Antti Raanta was quicker with a pad save.
The message from both teams: Game On.
The Canes almost broke the ice on the next play in the Pens zone, as the puck was knocked up high in the blue area of the crease in front of Jarry, and Jordan Martinook batted it out of the air, bouncing off the crossbar. Midway through the period, the Penguins realized a gross mismatch with the Canes’ 4th line and 3rd D pairing on the ice as the Pens had their top line and top D. Jake Guentzel, a forever Canes killer, was on the right point, looked up, and saw Sidney Crosby all alone to Rants’ right, made the hard cross-ice pass right to Sid’s tape for an easy backhander to put the Pens up 1-0. My observation was that the checking throughout the rest of the first period was not tight. Each team appeared to have time and space, as tight forechecking was missing.
The stars of the first period were both goalies, as each came up big when it counted. Easily the score could have been 4-4 if it weren’t for the goalies. The Canes had the lone powerplay of the period and seemed to have a different look with little setup for set plays and more on individual efforts. Not successful and certainly would be a different look if given another opportunity.
Aho Knots It, 1-1
Early in the second, Jack Drury, who no doubt has to feel snake bit, got tangled with Hinostroza and a linesman along the near boards, with everyone going down and Drury getting called for tripping. Reilly Smith had what looked like a sure goal, but Rants quick glove robbed a 2-0 Pen lead.
At the 13-minute mark, the Pens were clearing their zone, but Sebastian Aho intercepted the puck in the neutral zone. Fishy turned on his jets, carrying the puck along the far board, laid down a drop pass to Seth Jarvis, held it for a second then set another drop pass to Teuvo Teravainen while Fishy skated around the net. Turbo knew exactly where Fishy was going, and quickly made a hard cross-ice pass that Aho’s quick stick one-timed into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1 and get the very partisan sellout crowd back into the game.
Late in the period, the Pens had an odd-man rush with only Brady Skjei back on defense. Skjei had his eyes and stick moving, waiting for the Pens to show their hand. Just as Guentzel released his shot, Skjei extended his stick at arm’s length to deflect the puck into the protective netting behind the goal, keeping the score 1-1 to end the second period.
Jarvis, Burns But Not Svech Pot Goals
The third period turned out to be one of the best 20 minutes of the season for the Canes. Early in the period, Guentzel got called for a slash on Turbo. With the ‘second’ powerplay unit on the ice, Brent Burns carried the puck behind the net, passing up to Andrei Svechnikov along the near half boards. Svech settled the puck, surveyed the players passing up to Jaccob Slavin on the right point. Slavo looked to the net but passed left to Burns. Good chance Burns didn’t read a recent article on how slap shots are becoming a rarity as he blasted a cannon from 65’ out that put the Canes up 2-1 just as the penalty expired.
At the 12-minute mark, Marty Necas passed over to Svech on the near side. Svech had time and space, Jarry hugged the near post, but Svech wristed a beauty into the upper corner for his first of the year. But it wasn’t to be as after Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged for the play being offside, videotape showed Necas was offside but an inch or two. Tough luck. Adding salt to that wound happened just a few minutes later as Crosby notched his second of the game on a delayed penalty against the Canes. Karlsson took the puck over the blue line, found himself unchecked, so he took the puck to the net. Skjei hooked him for the delayed call, Kris Letang took a shot from the high slot that was blocked in front that, of course, landed on Sid’s stick that he easily slid into the goal to tie the game.
The Canes forechecking led to the next goal. The Pens had the puck behind their own goal when in attempting a pass, Turbo intercepted the puck to keep it deep. Seth Jarvis and Letang fought for the puck along that backboard with Jarvy scooching the puck up to Fishy along the near boards. Aho passed cross-ice to Burnsie on the right point, immediately passing left to Slavo.
Slavo wasted no time and carried the puck off the near boards making a hard centering pass right to Jarvis’ tape that was turned for a tip-in to put the Canes up 3-2. Pretty goal and a crucial time. With a little over 2 minutes remaining, Sullivan pulled Jarry for the extra skater. As the Canes cleared the puck out of their defensive zone, Fishy had the puck in front of the Canes bench, turned to get by Karlsson, but Karlsson’s stick got caught between Fishy’s legs for a penalty with just over a minute to play. In a gutsy move, after the Pens dumped the puck into the Canes end, Sullivan again pulled Jarry.
This time the advantage went to the Canes. Turbo had the puck at the Canes blue line, passed to Fishy in the neutral zone, and with one defender back, passed over to Jarvy just as he crossed the Pens blue line, lifting the puck high into the empty net for a rare empty net powerplay goal to seal the win 4-2. Jarvis got the first star of the game with Raanta a very close #2 star.
Great third period all around. The next game is Wednesday against the offensively powerful Edmonton Oilers. Be there!