For the second straight game, the short-staffed Carolina Hurricanes knocked off a Stanley Cup finalist, this time dominating the Dallas Stars for a 4-1 win Saturday at PNC Arena. The loss was the first of the season for the Stars (4-1-0) and moved Carolina into a tie with Dallas for fourth in the Central Division despite both teams having played just five games.
Vincent Trocheck scored the game’s first two goals, and Andrei Svechnikov and Ryan Dzingel added power play goals, but Carolina lost both Petr Mrazek and Max McCormick to injury in the first period.
1. Carolina’s two-goalie system took a hit in the opening minutes when Mrazek left the game with a right arm/hand injury. The Hurricanes’ McCormick collided with Mrazek after backchecking into the Carolina zone, and the goalie immediately grabbed his right arm and rushed off the ice with the assistance of trainer Doug Bennett just 2:47 into the game.
Losing Mrazek for a prolonged spell would be a huge blow to the Hurricanes, who are faced with an even more cluttered schedule after having four games rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Mrazek had posted two shutouts in his first three starts of the season, and James Reimer would have to carry the load with Alex Nedeljkovic — a standout in the AHL but unproven at the highest level — as the No. 2.
McCormick also left the game in the first period after a hit from behind by Dallas’ Blake Comeau that went uncalled.
“We thought it was worse,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Mrazek’s injury. “Obviously, it’s still not good, but I can’t tell you how long he’s going to be out for. For Max, the same thing — that one looked bad, was bad. I think he’ll be a lot longer.
2. Carolina’s power play scored three times and now has goals in four of five games, going 3 for 5 Saturday with goals from both units — one each by Trocheck, Svechnikov and Dzingel. The Hurricanes are now 6 for 21 (28.6%) on the season. Comparatively, Carolina’s penalty kill denied 5 of 6 Stars opportunities and has now killed 16 of 18 (88.9%) through five games. The fact they’re having success — specifically on the PK — the past two games without so many key contributors just points to how well things are going for the Hurricanes right now.
“The last couple games have been (against two) of the best teams in the league, so it’s been a great challenge for us,” said Sebastian Aho, who had two assists. “Especially when there’s a few guys out of the lineup and some guys haven’t played in a year and (just) started playing NHL and not even having any preseason games. So it’s been awesome to see those guys step up for us.”
3. Everyone speculated that playing only divisional opponents could lead to animosity and more heated rivalries this season. Sunday’s game could give us a glimpse into that theory.
The Hurricanes were unhappy with the hit on McCormick, and John Klingberg was also guilty of a shot to the head of defenseman Jake Bean that briefly sent the rookie defenseman to the locker room.
While Klingberg’s hit looked inadvertent, Comeau’s on McCormick — while not drawing a penalty — was reckless. Comeau’s been previously suspended for boarding (back in 2014) and has a history of making borderline hits like the one that injured McCormick.
The McCormick hit:
— Hockey Hound (@HockeyHoundShow) January 31, 2021
And this one last season on Edmonton’s Sam Gagner.
The Stars will surely be unhappy with their performance Saturday, and they also took exception after a Svechnikov cross checking penalty near the end of the first period when the game had reached a boiling point.
Carolina isn’t the type of team to get into a line brawl, but the Hurricanes clearly ramped up their physicality when Dallas crossed the line a couple times. It will be interesting to see if those tensions carry over into the rematch.
Number To Know
11 — Total shots on goal for the Stars, all faced by Reimer. The small workload could mean Brind’Amour goes back to Reimer for tomorrow’s rematch. The Hurricanes don’t play back-to-backs again until Feb. 7-8 in Columbus. There’s no timetable on Mrazek to return yet, but Carolina could conceivably ride Reimer for a bit without wearing him out. Dallas will also have a decision to make after pulling Anton Khudobin when the game reached 4-0. Khudobin played 30:19, while Jake Oettinger logged 28:47. One of them will have to play again.
They Said It
“You have a lot of skill on this team, and the nice thing about the skilled players here is they work their butts off.”
— Trocheck on how he is starting to feel comfortable with the Hurricanes
Vincent Trocheck, Hurricanes center — Trocheck scored twice in the first seven minutes of the opening period, setting the tone early with a goal just outside the paint on a nice behind-the-net feed from Martin Necas and adding a power play goal on a rebound just under three minutes later.
He now has four goals in the first five games of the season, giving Carolina the secondary scoring threat they hoped they’d be getting when they traded for him last season.
“Everyone knows that he’s got a skill,” Necas, who finished with two assists, said of Trocheck. “Finally, we’re finding some chemistry, it seems like. So, we just gotta keep building on that and, hopefully, we’re gonna keep scoring more and more goals, just like today.”
Max McCormick, Hurricanes forward — What a tough break for McCormick, who was playing in his second game with Carolina and had proven reliable and feisty in a fourth-line role.
First, his collision with Mrazek knocked out the Hurricanes goalie, and then he was hurt on the hit from behind by Comeau. Carolina is close to getting back some of their players lost to COVID-19 protocol, but depth — as it’s already been proven — is crucial, and the Hurricanes look like they lost a valuable reserve in McCormick for an extended period.