Raleigh, NC — Much to the joy of nearly 17,000 Canes fans at PNC, the team pulled out a win against the New York Islanders in a sudden-death shootout Sunday night. This win was crucial as it broke their three-game losing streak and brought them back up in the standings of the playoff wildcard spot.
Read on for the full rundown of the weekend games through the eyes of our Canes writer, Bob Fennel.
Game 1- Friday
Ducks Down Canes 2-1 on Overtime
The Anaheim Ducks aren’t going anywhere this year but one thing they do have is bragging rights over the Canes as they’ve now won the only two contests against the Canes this year. The loss extended the Canes losing streak to 3 games with the only positive thing being the goal scored to take the game into OT.
The Canes, Columbus, who beat the Canes the night before, and the Flyers all were tied with 56 points before the game all fighting for the Wild Card spots for the playoffs. The Canes need to rebound and find the same mojo they had in the second half of last season, so they can climb the standings and make a solid playoff spot. They will certainly have their challenges as they’ve lost Dougie Hamilton to a broken leg that required surgery but they do have Justin Williams finally returning to action.
Williams will bring seasoned leadership to the team and while he’s not going to make the Canes a faster team by any shot, his playmaking is outstanding and don’t forget he still scored 23 goals last year. The big question for coach Rod Brind’Amour is which line Willie will play on. Will he ease him in on the fourth line? With that usually being an energy line, it may not be a good fit. Or will Roddy insert him into a top line? I suspect we’ll find out in Sunday’s game against the Islanders.
Veterans Stall and Getzlaf Brawl a Bit
Maybe it’s a good thing these two teams only meet twice a year as some of the older veterans, in Jordan Staal and Ryan Getzlaf started going at each other early in the game. Staal was camped out on the doorstep of Ryan Miller’s crease when play was stopped after Miller made a glove save off an Andrei Svechnikov shot. At that point, Getzlaf gave Staal a firm crosscheck after the whistle. There must be some family blood behind the dislike for Getzlaf as brother Eric doesn’t exactly have Getzlaf on his Christmas card list. The usually stoic Staal returned a firm crosscheck of his own, saying a few words before the linesmen stepped in.
Aho Notches 24th
After a faceoff deep in the Ducks end the Canes had their first lead in several games. Sebastian Aho won the faceoff drawing the puck to Joel Edmundson on the right point. As Steady Eddy ducked to his right then went left, Seabass went to the dirty area in the slot. Steady Eddy simply flung a hard toss towards the net that Seabass tipped with the top of his blade past Miller for his first goal in 7 games.
James Reimer was in the net and was sharp early as, after a bad turnover in the neutral zone, Reimer came up with a big save off perennial Canes killer, Jakob Silfverberg.
Stall’s Penalty and Powerplay Scoring Slump
There has been more than the normal complaining about the officiating this season throughout the league so maybe the fans provided some help on the first penalty of the game. Staal was carrying the puck out of the Canes defensive zone when he was tripped by Richard Rakell. Staal was still able to make a pass but it seemed only after the nearly 17,000 Caniacs raised their voices did the ref raise his arm.
The Canes powerplay kept excellent possession in the Ducks end but generated few scoring opportunities. This is about the 6th game in a row without a powerplay goal and hopefully, Willie brings some needed change in this area. Late in the period on a similar situation from the Columbus game, there was a coverage breakdown for the Canes on their opponent’s line change. Getzlaf was covered well with the puck along the far half boards, eyeing Erik Gudbranson charging all alone down the right side of the slot. Getzlaf flipped the puck over Haydn Fleury’s stick right to Gudbranson’s tape without a Canes defender within 10’ for an easy goal late in the period. Another thing that needs fixing by the Canes is goals by opponents early and late in the periods.
Miller, Reimer Are Both Solid
The second period was a battle between the blue lines. The Canes had a game-high 15 shots in the first but were held to just 6 in the third. The Ducks had 12 in the first, had one more in the second. Miller has always played great against the Canes, just ask Cam Ward as they must have played 40 games against each other, and both Miller and Reimer played very well. Goals in nets have been a big problem as of late for the Canes while goals in the net for opponents haven’t been all that difficult so the improvement in Reimer’s play was good to see.
Missing Hamilton’s massive reach and great offensive season he was having will be difficult to replace. Both Fleury and Trevor van Riemsdyk, who have both been platooning on defense will now be paired as the third D-line. These guys are more stay at home D-men than offensive threats but the Canes have the firepower up front that just needs to produce. Fleury is strong and plays with a bit of an edge and that edge drew a slashing penalty from Getzlaf.
The Canes powerplay was again weak with most of the passing around the upper umbrella and any attempt to get it low was thwarted by the Ducks. Just after the man advantage was over, Brock McGinn got off a great shot that fooled Miller that made a partial save with the puck trickling behind Miller towards the line but Cam Fowler swooped the puck away. Jaccob Slavin will be relied on more now that Hamilton is out indefinitely and made a great play as the lone defender on a 2-on-1 once again going down on his belly with his stick extended making snow angels forcing a bad pass. Shortly after that play, the Ducks’ Fowler, a highly talented player, had the puck behind Reimer, came around the net untouched and had all the time for picking a corner but Reimer made a quick glove save to keep the score knotted at 1 apiece.
Reimer Keeps Canes Hope Alive
A typical third period followed with both teams strong in the forechecking and the refs putting whistles in their pockets. Both teams had game lows in shots, the Canes just 4 while the Ducks were able to get off 11. Many were high scoring chances. Both teams played the night before but it was the Ducks who were the aggressive team in the third with Reimer keeping the Canes in the game.
With the Canes goal production down so much, Roddy started changing lines in the Columbus game and continued with line changes during the Ducks game. The two big changes were McGinn, who went from the fourth line to the top line, and Nino Niederreiter, who went from the second line to the fourth line. El Nino has snagged just 1 goal in his last several games and might be the odd man out when Willie breaks into the lineup.
Having 13 health forwards is a problem Roddy doesn’t mind. Having 12 healthy forwards on scoring slumps is a problem Roddy will address.
Both goalies played solid third periods, sending the game into overtime. Staal started the OT for the sole purpose to win the faceoff, which he did, then immediately switched with Seabass. The Canes had the possession for the first minute and a half but Svech mishandled the puck at the Ducks blue line with Sam Steel jumping on the turnover and racing to Reimer and putting in the Ducks lone shot in OT for the game-winner. Tough loss for the Canes, who, with the Hamilton injury had an incentive to dig a little deeper but just couldn’t pull it off.
Game 2- Sunday
Svechnikov, Williams, Reimer Shine in Canes 2-1 Shootout Win Over Islanders
You can hardly write storybook endings better than what happened to the Canes against the Islanders. In front of another packed house as well as Military Appreciation Night, that is near and dear to the Canes organization, in his first game back since re-signing, Justin Williams scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal after 8 rounds in the shootout. For the second game in a row, it turned out to be another duel of hot goaltenders with both James Reimer and Tomas Greiss playing strong in goal.
Svechnikov’s Howitzer Opens Scoring
The Canes needed something to break this scoring slump and 3 game losing streak that saw the team fallout of a playoff spot. Coach Rod Brind’Amour thought his good friend Justin Williams was ready but ready or not, he was getting in the lineup to help in whatever way he to could right this ship
Jordan Martinook was the odd man out and knowing the type of team guy he is, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he volunteered even though he’s been playing well lately. Only problem with Marty is putting pucks in the net but every teammate only needs to look in the mirror to see who else is light on the scoring stat. The crowd gave a long and loud cheer the moment Willie took his first shift that included a nice shot from the mid slot area.
After Willie’s fourth line changed with the first, Jordan Staal made a great check along the near boards separating Jordan Eberle from the puck. Nino Niederreiter picked up the puck, skated up top, passing over to Brett Pesce. Pesce saw Andrei Svechnikov camped out on his off-wing just inside the far perimeter of the circle. He passed to Svech who let go a bomb of a slap shot that broke the shaft of his defender’s stick. The puck hardly changed direction, fooling Greiss for the first goal of the game. I could be wrong, but of his 39 career goals, this may be Svech’s first, of what is sure to be many, slap shot goals.
Like the Canes, the Islanders’ powerplay has been on the blink as of late and they had the game’s first opportunity to change that. Both Staal and Brock McGinn upfront, as well as Pesce and Jaccob Slavin on defense, looked solid as Martin Necas got called for a hold. Just after the powerplay, Sebastian Aho flubbed an attempt to clear the puck near his own blue line with Brock Nelson picking up the puck going in all alone on Reimer. Thankfully, Reimer made a great save and froze the puck.
Late in the period, the Isles dumped the puck deep that Reimer went behind the net to gain possession. His pass to Slavin jumped Slavin’s stick allowing the Isles to gain control. Scott Mayfield got the puck on the right point and threw the puck to the net as there was decent traffic in the crease. Reimer made the save, Slavin got the rebound and tried to push the puck over to Necas but Anders Lee went around Erik Haula to snare the puck and put it in the net with Reimer still down from the previous save. Another opponent’s goal in the closing minute of a period.
Reimer, Greiss in Duel
Some clever coaching occurred before the start of the second. Many times teams will have the same line start all 3 periods but Islander Coach, Barry Trotz, another great coach, switched lines just as Roddy sent the first line out. The good thing about home ice is the home team has last line change so Roddy changed line for the proper match up.
Early in the second, Mathew Barzal used his speed while handling the puck along the boards, going behind the net, making a slick pass out front. The quick stick and excellent play by Slavin broke up what looked like a sure goal. Another play that won’t make any type of score sheet or highlight film, but was such a key play from the Canes new All Star representative.
Each team seemed to have possession for chunks of time rather than the usual one-shot-and-done play of the first. It was the Canes turn for attack and after several shots, Joel Edmundson was going deep for the puck but was interfered by Noah Hobson, giving the Canes another powerplay. The first powerplay looked good so the hope was this man advantage would result in a goal for the first time in 17 attempts. Unfortunately once again, the effort was good, but it is results that count and the Canes have now gone 17 powerplays without a goal. Shortly afterwards Staal got called for a phantom slash as replays showed there was no contact nor even a full slash attempt. Staal was having a great game and is key on the penalty kill. Ginner again stepped up his play as did Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. At one point during the Isles powerplay, the Canes Finns connection had the best scoring chance.
Willie Gets Last Shootout Goal
The third period was an extension of the second with tight checking and great goaltending on both ends of the ice. Greiss has always played well against the Canes and this game was no different. Both keepers had excellent rebound control and quick gloves, not allowing many second chances.
Williams had another great opportunity with a shot from the mid slot after a pretty setup by Lucas Wallmark. One noticeable difference in shots this game from the last game is more shots were lifted whereas that last game saw too many shots along the ice. The good goaltending continued into the overtime that had the Canes take 3 shots to the Isles 2. All 5 shots had game winning potential but the goalies continued their hot streaks. Then comes the shootout.
Svech scored the first shot followed by an Islanders miss. Barzal then connects, Turbo connects then Anthony Beauville connects to tie it up after the intital first three rounds. Both teams come up empty until Willie puts one in five hole in the eighth round with Lee missing on the final shot. Canes get the desperately needed second point and more importantly back in the playoffs wild card spot. Last game before the All Star and vacation breaks is Tuesday against Winnipeg. Be there!