The Carolina Hurricanes shook off Thursday’s loss to the Panthers, dominating the third period to beat Chicago 5-3 on Friday at PNC Arena on Reverse Retro Whalers Night. Nino Niederreiter had three points, including two goals, while linemates Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas also scored for Carolina. Jaccob Slavin added an empty-net goal.
1. Friday’s win was a top-to-bottom performance from the Hurricanes, one coach Rod Brind’Amour praised more than any other this season.
“We had a great game tonight,” he said. “I thought we could’ve had 10 goals.”
And that just wasn’t because of the performance of a few players. Jesper Fast, Necas and Slavin — three players who were on the COVID protocol list earlier this season — had what was probably their best games of the season, and the rest of the lineup looked like a well-oiled machine. Getting Slavin back to full speed is the biggest step of all.
“I feel like it’s kind of better game by game, but I think tonight was the first night it was all the way there,” Slavin said.
That is surely a relief for Brind’Amour, whose team is now 11-3-1 but really hadn’t put it all together until the 5-3 win. With Slavin seemingly back to his normal self, that’s one more thing with which opponents have to deal.
“I thought he was probably the best player on the ice,” Brind’Amour said.
2. Special teams win games, and that was an issue Carolina had in previous outings against the Blackhawks. In the two games in Chicago earlier this month, the Hurricanes failed to score on five power play opportunities while allowing four goals on seven Blackhawks power plays.
Friday was different. The Hurricanes were 2-for-4 on the power play, scoring both in the third period. Necas scored his second goal of the season early in the period to give Carolina the lead, and then Niederreiter added an insurance goal with under five minutes left.
Chicago did score on the power play, but it came with 51 seconds remaining after Slavin’s empty-netter had given Carolina a three-goal cushion.
“The last time we played them, our penalty kill wasn’t great,” Slavin said. “And so tonight, we were definitely ready for the challenge. Our specialty teams is a huge part of this game. So when our kill is going strong, our power plays going well, the result you get is a good, solid game all around.”
3. When they needed a save in the third period, James Reimer was there for the Hurricanes. Reimer (26 saves) improved to 8-1-0 on the season despite less-than-stellar surface numbers — a 3.08 goals-against average, .896 save percentage and at least three goals allowed in his last seven outings.
But there’s a confidence about the team with him in net, and Reimer shows it in himself when games are tight. Simply put, Reimer looks like a better goalie in the third period than he is in the first two, and the Hurricanes have been good enough in front of him to get themselves to the final frame either ahead or in the game.
“When we needed a save in the third, he made a couple real good ones to just kind of let us relax,” Brind’Amour said.
No one’s calling for Reimer to be a Vezina candidate, nor suggesting Petr Mrazek shouldn’t get the majority of the starts once he’s recovered and up to speed, but Reimer’s done enough to steady the ship in his partner’s absence.
Number To Know
7 — Hurricanes players with at least 10 points through the team’s 15 games. Trocheck and Staal are first with 15 points apiece, while Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are right behind with 14 points. Niederreiter (11), Brock McGinn (10) and Dougie Hamilton (10) round out the list.
Five others are averaging at least a half-point a game, including Jake Bean — he now has three assists in the last three games after registering no points in his first three. His assist on Trocheck’s goal flashed the skill and upside of Carolina’s long-seasoned 2016 first-round pick.
“His skill set as a D is unbelievable,” said Necas, who played with Bean on the 2019 Calder Cup-winning AHL team in Charlotte. “He just needs to build his confidence. As you can see now in games, he’s making those little plays. He’s playing well, so hopefully he keeps going.”
They Said It
“Last year, he just couldn’t buy one. And then once that kind of doesn’t happen, it snowballs. And you kind of fight it. Versus the opposite — now that a few have gone in, it snowballs the other way where you just feel like you can’t miss, and that’s kind of what’s happened here.”
— Brind’Amour on Niederreiter, who had his eighth and ninth goals of the season Friday
Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes forward — With all the talk of the seasons Staal and McGinn are having, how about Niederreiter? After Niederreiter scored just 11 goals a year ago — the fewest Since his 19-year-old season with the Islanders in 2011-12 — he’s worthy of the nickname Swiss (Can’t) Miss.
His two goals Friday give him nine on the season, and he has goals in four of the last six games.
“I had a hiccup year and definitely didn’t plan to play the way I did last year, and I’m glad to find that jam again and play the way I’m doing right now,” Niederreiter said.
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — Svechnikov’s goal drought has now hit seven games, and his four-game point streak was snapped. He also had just one shot on goal, only the second time this season he hasn’t gotten multiple shots on net. Svechnikov, however, did have one of the game’s biggest hits, knocking Philipp Kurashev right off his feet in the second period.