Andrei Svechnikov continued his early-season tear, James Reimer made 31 saves in his first start of the year, and the Carolina Hurricanes won 4-2 in Nashville on Monday. Vincent Trocheck and Sebastian Aho also scored, and Nino Niederreiter added a late empty-net goal.
The win improved Carolina to 2-1-0 through three games, tying them with the Predators (2-1-0) and Tampa Bay (2-0-0) with four points atop the Central Division. Nashville and the Hurricanes will play again tomorrow.
1. Carolina continues to struggle offensively, but Svechnikov hasn’t been part of the problem. Svechnikov opened the scoring on the power play in the second period, wristing a shot past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne (20 saves) to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead on a night when they had been finding it difficult to get to their game against the Predators.
The third-year winger has now scored in all three games to start the season, getting an empty-netter in the opening win against Detroit and adding a goal and assist in the rematch Saturday. He also had an assist Monday, feeding Aho for his first goal of the season on a 2-on-1 in the third period created by Jake Gardiner, who broke up a play in the Carolina end and sprung the duo with a tape-to-tape pass to Svechnikov.
“We played the last year together, and we got some chemistry from last year,” Svechnikov said of his chemistry with Aho. “I know where he’s going to be, and he knows where I’m going to be so that makes it easy on us.”
Svechnikov now has five points through three games, putting him near the top of the league in the early-season scoring race.
“It’s hard the first couple of games played, and your legs feel a little bit heavy,” Svechnikov said. “Every game is getting better, and even today I felt way better than last game.”
That’s bad news for the rest of the league if Svechnikov has another gear in him.
2. One of the keys to the 2020-21 Hurricanes season will be the play of Trocheck. Through three games, the results are encouraging. Trocheck gave Carolina the lead in the third when Niederreiter pressured Nashville’s Rocco Grimaldi at the Nashville blue line. Grimaldi’s errant pass was grabbed by Trocheck and he turned back toward Rinne for a 2-on-1 with Martin Necas. Trocheck’s far side wrist shot beat Rinne cleanly for his second goal in as many games.
After scoring just once in seven regular season games after coming over from Florida and not scoring in eight postseason games last year, Trocheck could be returning to the form that saw him score 23 or more goals in three straight seasons with Florida from 2015-16 to 2017-18.
“He’s a competitor, I said that from day one,” Brind’Amour said of Trocheck. “We know he’s gonna compete. I mean, I think we’re using him on everything right now. And, obviously, that’s a huge goal. … He’s making some good plays for us, and that’s obviously why we got him.”
3. The Hurricanes continue to miss Jordan Staal, particularly in the faceoff circle. Carolina won just 15 of 45 faceoffs (33%) Monday, including 3 of 14 in a first period that saw only Aho register a win at the dot (3 of 7).
In all, Aho was the only player to have any success, winning 50% of the 16 draws he took. Trocheck (4 of 14, 29%), Jordan Martinook (2 of 8, 25%) and Morgan Geekie (1 of 4, 25%) have all seen better days in the circle.
“Obviously troubling, but that’s why,” Brind’Amour said of the team’s faceoff ineptitude without Staal in the lineup. “We had a guy that takes 20 faces off tonight, and now a third of your faceoffs are going to guys that that’s not their specialty. That’s a big deal. So these are things that you miss when the big guy’s out.”
Number To Know
296 — Consecutive games with a shot on goal for Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton until Monday, when Hamilton was held without a shot on goal. The last time Hamilton was held without a shot on goal before Monday was April 5, 2016, in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Kings when he was with the Flames.
They Said It
“His goal was a high-end goal. … I don’t think people realize how hard that is what he’s doing over there on that off side, to catch and turn and fire it that hard. It’s a skillset not many guys can do.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on Svechnikov’s power play goal that opened scoring in the second period.
James Reimer, Hurricanes goalie — Svechnikov, Aho and Trocheck all had two points, but Reimer — along with his new best friend, the crossbar — was the difference. In his first game of the season, the veteran goalie made several key stops while also having some bounces go his way off the pipe.
In his first live action since an Aug. 17 playoff loss against Boston, Reimer seemed to have no problem shaking off the rust and providing what the organization hopes he and Petr Mrazek can for the rest of the season — a two-goalie approach that will minimize wear and tear on one netminder during a compressed schedule.
“It always seems to come down to goaltending in this league,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, they had some really good looks and he was just sharp, and I think that was settling for us.”
For Reimer, it was just about trusting his preparation.
“There’s a big gap between practices and games, but you just get in there and just try and play your game, just trust it, and kind of know that you’re gonna make mistakes, and that’s all right. Just stay with it and trust it and, hopefully, it’s a good outcome.”
Teuvo Teravainen, Hurricanes forward — This is not performance-related. Teravainen played just three shifts in the final two periods after he, as Brind’Amour put it, “tweaked something.” Losing Teravainen would be a huge blow to the Hurricanes, who not only rely on him at even strength and the power play but also use him on the penalty kill and can count on him to be one of the team’s best defensive forwards every night.
With Staal already out and Morgan Geekie called up and in the lineup, Teravainen being out would mean Carolina would need to turn to either Max McCormick or Steven Lorentz from the taxi squad if they wish to play with 12 forwards and six defensemen. The team could also conceivably call up Jake Bean to help on the power play and use just 11 forwards.
A Lorentz recall, however, would be the most intriguing. The 24-year-old forward went undrafted in his first year of eligibility, was taken 186th overall in the seventh round 2015 draft the next year, and he then had to earn a pro contract and claw his way through the ECHL and AHL to get this far.
Last year was the breakthrough season for the 6-foot-4 Lorentz. After splitting the 2018-19 season with the ECHL’s Everblades and AHL’s Checkers — playing 12 games for the Calder Cup champions that year — Lorentz led Charlotte forwards in points last season with 46 (23 goals, 23 assists) in 61 games and is the type of player Brind’Amour loves — a hard worker with a good attitude.