Cary, NC – Eric Staal and his Minnesota Wild team are one of the top teams in the west and if they win their game against the Canes, they would have leap frogged Chicago as the top team in the west. This was EStaal’s second trip to the PNC Arena wearing a visitor’s uniform, the first being last year shortly after he was traded to the NY Rangers with the Canes winning that game 4-1. Once again, the Canes beat EStaal’s team, this time by a 3-1 score.
Ryan Scores Powerplay Goal
Coach Bill Peters must scratch his head often on why the Canes can play great against great teams and lousy against lousy teams. In a surprise move, Peters started Eddie Lack in goal, when all bets were that EStaal’s good friend Cam Ward would be between the pipes. Tapping Lack was a wise choice as he played his best game as a Cane making saves from every angle and with every part of his body including his mask.
Early in the period, rookie Lucas Wallmark intercepted a Wild pass in the Canes end high slot area, carried the puck through the neutral zone, splitting two defenders as he entered the Wild’s end passing off to Ryan Murphy who joined the rush. Murph used his speed to go along the far boards continuing behind the net only to be pulled down by a defender drawing the game’s first penalty. Lee Stempinak had the puck on the right point, passed over to Noah Hanifin on the left.
Hanifin took a couple of strides towards the net then sent a slap shot to the net. Devan Dubnyk made the save but gave up a rebound that Derek Ryan tapped in to put the Canes up 1-0. A little over eight minutes later the Canes were on the powerplay again, and again a goal was scored but this time it was Mikael Granlund scoring a pretty shorthanded goal as the Canes sloppiness resulted in a turnover at the Wild blue line. Late in the period, EStaal had probably the hardest shot on goal all night but Lack came up big making a pad save.
Canes Defense Comes Up Big
Both goalies were having problems controlling rebounds in the first and that same problem continued in the second. Forwards, especially snipers, take notes on how a goalie is doing with regards to rebounds and where those typically go. Likewise, defenders take the same notes and have to box out more as well as tie up sticks on any shot.
The defense on both teams did excellent jobs limiting the shots off rebounds as the game was starting to get a little more physical in the second. The Canes don’t necessarily like the physical games as not only are they the youngest team in the NHL, they’re one of the smallest.
The speed of the game picked up even more in the second with more dump and chase rather than carrying the puck into either offensive zone. The forechecking was getting more intense and the return of Brock McGinn was evident as he was using his speed and banging bodies along the boards all night. Lack came up big late in the period as Justin Faulk swatted and missed a puck in the air allowing Zack Parise and partial breakaway that had the makings of a momentum game changer.
Rask’s Power Move Puts Canes in The Lead
Minnesota came out in the third with fire in their eyes knowing they were playing a team, on paper, they should be dominating and first place was on the line. The Canes defense, especially Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce were studs. Each used their strength and long reach to stop and steal pucks several times during the final period. Faulk and Murph were joining the rush more often than normal hoping the defense would be the ones who scored the winning goal.
The Wild were relentless in the Canes end getting off 16 shots in the period with Lack flipping and flopping making save after save. He lost his stick at one point but the defense tied up sticks and bodies until the puck was finally cleared out of the Canes end. Late in the period, Elias Lindholm was a beast with the puck in the far corner dipsey and doodling back and forth evading his defender. Lindy passed off to Victor Rask who did his Erik Cole imitation, lowering his shoulder going to the crease and slipped the puck through Dubnyk’s pads to put the Canes up 2-1.
After the Wild pulled Dubnyk, Jeff Skinner got possession of the puck high in the Canes end, went through the neutral zone and while he had a defender on him, unselfishly passed over to Teuvo Teravainen on the right wing who put in an empty netter to seal the win. Great finish to a great and entertaining game.
Next home game is Saturday, March 18, 2017 against Nashville. Be there!