Raleigh, NC — Both the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Carolina Hurricanes were playing their first game after a long midseason/All-Star break but it was the Knights that played all 3 periods without any rust showing.
Game 1: Canes Slow Upon Return, Lose 4-3 to Golden Knights
The Canes showed the effects of the long delay, mostly in the first two periods with poor passing, possibly the poorest of the season, weak forechecking, disorganized while setting up any play and giving Knight’s goalie, Malcom Subban, an easy time in net with just 6 relatively easy saves in the first period.
Canes Down 2 Goals Early
The Canes were playing the Knights for only the fifth time with the teams splitting the first 4 games with 2 wins for each team. Marc-Andre Fleury was forced to sit out as he elected to skip the All-Star game for rest instead. The NHL has a decent rule that electively skipping the All-Star game with a mandatory one-game penalty for the first game after the All-Star weekend.
The Canes were flat from the start and didn’t look like their heads were in the game. The Knights, like the Canes in the east, are fighting for a playoff spot in the west and came out with the effort to gain those 2 very valuable points.
The Knights took advantage of a breakdown in coverage as Jake Gardiner had to leave the man he was covering well to slip over to Paul Stastny all alone in the low slot area but Stastny had all the time he needed to pick a corner to put the Knights up 1-0. Normally, after what seems to be an all too often early goal against, the Canes buckle down and start playing the way Rod Brind’Amour expects the team to play but that didn’t happen.
The Canes were a stride slower, appeared confused on who was covering whom and were allowing just too many shots, many of which were high scoring chances challenging Petr Mrazek all too often. After the Knights banged 2 shots off the iron, Warren Foegele flipped the puck out of the defensive zone. Reilly Smith jumped and intercepted the clear dropping the puck to his stick then made a quick pass to Jonathan Marchessault who was covered by Joel Edmundson, took a shot 7’ above the faceoff dot that the only way to put it is Mrazek whiffed on giving the Knights a 2 goal lead.
Roddy started walking the bench with a little faster pace and possibly had thoughts of heading to the locker room to lace up his skates as something had to change. The Knights’ domination of the first continued and the best the Canes could hope for was end the first ‘just’ 2 down and regroup.
Teravainen Nets Canes First
Early in the second, Foegele got tangled with Marchessault along the near boards and his aggressiveness got the best of him as his stick came high resulting in a penalty which is not the way the Canes planned to get back in the game. The penalty kill units were one of the bright spots as they held the Knights to 2 shots that Mrazek had no problems with. The Canes finally got the man advantage when Justin Williams used a veteran move on a double hitch fooling Deryk Engelland that resulted in a holding call.
The Canes powerplay was also late coming back from the mid-season break as both units didn’t show anything special. The best chance was when Willie had the puck behind the right side of the net feeding Sebastian Aho in the dirty area but Seabass couldn’t lift the puck over Subban’s pads. Other than that play, the passing was mostly on the perimeter with no one really causing any traffic in front. Right after the penalty ended, the Knights had a partial breakaway with Engelland coming out of the box and Max Pacioretty going down the center with just Brett Pesce as the lone defender.
Pesce made an amazing sweep check, knocking the puck loose on what could have been a game killer. Shortly afterwards, Canes All-Star representative Jaccob Slavin did his own block of a 2 on 1 timing his slide perfectly breaking up a pass. Roddy started to switch lines up as an attempt to get anything going. That may have played a part in the Knights coverage as the Knights had their own confusion on a line change that led to the Canes’ first goal.
Edmundson had the puck in the neutral zone, passing over to Slavin who sent the puck along the boards to Seabass behind the net. Jordan Martinook was open on the left wing charging the net and got a nice pass from Seabass, slapping the puck into Subban’s chest with Teuvo Teravainen picking up the sweet rebound and wristing the puck into the near corner to get the Canes, and the near-sellout crowd, back into the game.
The Knights won the faceoff after that goal and made a hard rush towards Mrazek’s net. Mark Stone, having a fantastic year, had speed going around the back of the net with Pesce in hot pursuit. Pesce made a killer play in squeezing between Stone and the goal, not only boxing out Stone but pushed the puck over to Ryan Dzingel.
McGinn, Aho Get Canes Back in Game
The Canes offense finally woke up in the third with all lines, in whatever mix Roddy chose, were on all cylinders. After pressure in the Knights end, the Knights ended up icing the puck. The Knights won the faceoff and had too easy of a time bringing the puck up ice into the Canes end with simple tic tac toe passing resulting in Nate Schmidt lifting one past Mrazek to put the Canes down by 2 again.
Brock McGinn responded 16 seconds later to reignite the Caniacs. Willie stole the puck in center ice passing over to Haydn Fleury. Fleury muscled past a defender along the boards making a slick pass to Ginner coming down the left side of the slot who put a quick shot in the upper corner for a real pretty goal. Just under 4 minutes later the Canes were on another powerplay and wasted no time to tie the game.
Seabass won the faceoff drawing the puck back to Turbo. Turbo quickly passed over to Slavin on the right point who quickly sent a hard slap shot towards the goal. Seabass tipped the puck ever so lightly that the puck still had speed hitting the inside of the net and bounced out so quickly the ref leaning over the goal was unsure it went in. After a quick video review, the goal counted.
Unfortunately for Seabass, his heroics came to a quick end as on the next play he got called for a hook that could only be called a bad penalty at a bad time. The Knights scored on the powerplay in just 5 seconds which turned out to be the game-winner.
Game 2: Canes Edge Canucks, 4-3 In Shootout
The Canes got a very needed two points in a shootout win over a very good Vancouver Canucks team, with a come from behind 4-3 win both in the game and shoot out. The huge difference between the east and west conferences is that the Canucks with 64 points entering the game are in a solid first place for their division while the Canes at 61 points started the game out of the playoffs.
With the win, the Canes are in the second Wild Card spot behind the Islanders who have 64 points. The Maple Leafs are 3rd in their division with 63 points so the Islanders, in a different division are ‘just’ a wild card. The Isles have 2 games at hand so expect that positioning to change. The Flyers also have the same 63 points as the Canes but the Canes have the better record so they get the wild card nod. All this scoreboard watching is not for the faint of heart as there will be countless changes over the next 2 months.
Reimer Kept Canes in Game
Watching Andrei Svechnikov in the warmups is really something anyone going to a game ought to take in. Well before the team warmups, the young star is one of very few on the ice working on hand-eye coordination and stick skills. During team warmups he’s mostly working on his shot as well as having a good time with his teammates and popping a puck over the ice to a fan or two.
You could tell by the way he was before the game, this game was going to be different. This game was going to be special. Svech started the game on fire. Once again Rod Brind’Amour switched up lines with Sebastian Aho centering Svech and Warren Foegele. One thing for sure, that line would be fast and physical on the wings and they didn’t disappoint anyone on every shift as this was the Canes’ top line all game. After a nice pass from Svech, Seabass had the first shot at Thatcher Demko who made a quick pad save.
The Canes line changes were much improved over Friday’s fiasco with the Jordan Staal line taking the ice next and kept the pressure in the Canucks end. The speed of the game was fast as both teams have a great base of young, talented and fast players. The Canucks’ Elias Pettersson, last year’s rookie of the year, is the real deal and has given the Vancouver fan base some real hope for not only the long term future but immediate future as they’ve missed the playoffs the past 4 seasons but that streak, the Caniacs know all too well, will end this season.
Pettersson was in the right place at the right time knocking in the first score of the game. Christopher Taney had the puck on the right point sending a slapper to the net. The puck’s trajectory was going far side but Staal blocked in the the low slot area. With the puck bounding to the near side, Pettersson picked up the puck and quickly sent it in the net with 4’ of the goal open as James Reimer couldn’t recover from covering the far side.
The Canes did not let that early goal rattle their game plan as the checking on both sides of the ice was very effective. Nino Niederreiter got the first penalty of the game on what can be described as a careless penalty that escaped everyone but Troy Stecher and the ref. El Nino came down Broadway, used Stecher as a screen and took a good shot that Demko saved with the blocker. Problem was El Nino took exception to Strecher being so close after the shot, a coach would call that good positioning, that El Nino raised his arms and popped Strecher in the face for a high sticking call.
The PK teams were spot-on this game going 4-for-4 with Brock McGinn once again showing his excellent man down play. Erik Haula got called for a tripping penalty late in the period with his legs and stick getting tangled with Alexander Edler but the man down defense was strong again with Foegs the standout this time.
Niederreiter, Aho Give Canes the Lead
The Canes got on the board early in the second. Jake Gardiner carried the puck into the Canucks end passing over to Teuvo Teravainen on the left wing. Turbo had time and space, took a couple of strides then sent a centering pass to El Nino coming down the center.
The pass was a little behind Niederreiter but he still was able to gain control, did a spin move and sent a strong backhander to the net that tied the game. Goalies hate backhanders for a variety of reasons, the shooter, and more than likely also the defenseman, usually blocks the puck, the shot is usually a wrister meaning the goalie can’t hear the puck movement and he never knows when it’s coming.
Reason more shots are not backhanders- players in position for a backhander are usually flattened before a shot is able to be taken.
Big goal for El Nino and hopefully this ignites him to a torrid run these last two months. The poor soul has been snake bit but it hasn’t been for lack of trying, just bad luck. The Canes went ahead late in the period on a great team play. Trevor van Riemsdyk, playing on the first D pairing with Jaccob Slavin, had the puck on the right point passing around to Svech along the far boards.
Svech cradled the puck took strides up top then passed to Slavin on the high slot. Slavin saw good traffic in front then sent a slap shot/pass to Foegs. The puck hit Foegs stick dropping in the dirty area, with Seabass quick on the pickup sweeping the puck into the net to give the Canes their first lead in two games. Tyler Meyers tied the game at the 15:12 mark off an assist from former Canes player, Brandon Sutter who has been plagued with injuries all season. He is still a solid 2-way player but has lost a step or two.
Svechnikov’s Highlight Reel Goal, Williams Knots Last SO Goal
The feeling that Svech was going to have a good game came true early in the third. Joel Edmundson cleared the puck to the neutral zone to Foegs. Foegs skooched the puck to Svech along the far boards that may not have been the wisest pass as a defender was all over Svech. No worries, Svechnikov lowered his shoulder, turned on his Jets and in an Erik Cole type power move, gained speed on every stride getting a half stride on his defender then put in an impossible shot top shelf leaving the entire arena gasping at another impressive goal.
Even some Canucks were shaking their heads at what they saw, while the Canes bench had smiles and high fives. Roddy’s eyes got as big as beach balls while trying to be very coach like behind the bench. Pettersson tied the game at 9:06 with his own impressive goal.
After getting a pass from J.T. Miller, Patterson was on the far goal line sending a hard shot along the ice that bounced in, as planned, off Reimer’s skate that had the net minder shaking his head is disbelief. The Canes PK units were put to the test late in the game but once again came up strong allowing 2 shots with Reimer making key saves on both.
The third period overall saw very tight forechecking with both teams getting game low shots with the Canes 6 and Canucks 7. The 5 minute overtime had the Canes get off 2 shots to the Canucks’ 1. The Canes had the best opportunity when Turbo had time and space, maybe too much time, as his shot was low and right into Demko’s gut. Svech missed the Canes first shootout attempt with Pettersson knotting one for the Canucks. turbo and Justin Williams both connected on the next two with Reimer stopping that Canucks last two allowing the Canes to grab that oh so needed second point.
The Storm Surge was a football play in honor of Super Bowl Sunday with Slavin catching a long pass. Next home game is Valentine’s Day against the Devils. Now, how romantic is that! Be there!