The Blue Jackets forced overtime with an extra attacker goal with 16 seconds remaining, but Sebastian Aho scored in overtime to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 win Thursday in Columbus.
Cedric Paquette, Martin Necas and Nino Niederreiter also scored for Carolina, which improved to 22-7-3 on the season.
1. Despite losing the first two games of the four-game set against the Blue Jackets, the Hurricanes entered Thursday’s finale with a chance to get six of a possible eight points.
“These games were two good teams playing the right way, no room,” Aho said. “It definitely was (grinding) games, every single one of them. We expect to win every single one, but these last two were big ones.”
Carolina again had its hands full with the Blue Jackets, who survived a first-period onslaught to outplay the Hurricanes for much of the rest of the game. But the Hurricanes were resilient and didn’t crumble when Columbus kept clawing back.
“I don’t know what it is,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Nothing fazes this group. And that’s good and bad, right? I think sometimes we just can keep playing — and not necessarily good — and it’s like they don’t even realize we’re not playing good.
“It’s like, ‘Eh, we’re OK, it’s fine,’ and I’m losing it. But it really is something to be said that whatever happens out there, it’s always about that next shift. … It’s a testament to the guys — certainly not me, because I’m losing my mind when I see all that stuff.”
2. Consecutive penalties late in the second and early in the third gave the Blue Jackets the chance they needed to get back in the game.
First, Warren Foegele was called for an elbow on Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno with 24 seconds left in the second period and Carolina up 2-1. The Hurricanes killed that one off at the start of third, but it wasn’t long before defenseman Jake Bean was in the box for hooking on a scoring chance in front of the Carolina net.
Noted Canes killer Cam Atkinson scored on the second power play at 3:20 of the third to tie the game.
3. Another day, another stellar performance from Alex Nedeljkovic. The Hurricanes goalie improved to 8-2-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 race percentage after making 33 saves in Thursday’s win.
It’s hard to see anyone other than Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov being this year’s rookie of the year, but Nedeljkovic is certainly in the conversation to be a Calder Trophy finalist.
He and the Islanders Ilya Sorokin have nearly identical numbers, while other rookies like Washington’s Vitek Vanecek, Minnesota’s Kaapo Kahkonen and Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen have made this year’s rookie class one of the best in memory.
Nedeljkovic’s glove save on Max Domi and stop in tight on Foligno were just two of several great saves that kept Carolina from falling behind.
“It was every period, I feel like at least three or four great saves,” Aho said. “And sometimes when the team isn’t playing that well, your goalie can bail you out, and Ned, for sure, won this one for us.
Number To Know
14 — Goals on the season for both Aho and Niederreiter, who remain tied for the team lead in goal with the injured Vincent Trocheck one behind.
They Said It
“Well, Cory, did you see us playing that third period?”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour when I asked him the decision to move Niederreiter onto Jordan Staal’s wing and it paying immediate dividends with a goal.
Martin Necas, Hurricanes forward — Necas continues to be a human highlight reel. Necas — who now has five goals and eight assists in 12 games this month — showed off another tool in his repertoire with a blazing wraparound goal at 17:16 of the second period to give Carolina a 2-1 lead.
“He’s just growing in confidence,” Brind’Amour said of Necas.
Necas then created the game-winner in overtime, rushing in for a chance at 3-on-3 but bobbling the puck for a weak effort on goalie Joonas Korpisalo (29 saves). But Necas stayed with it and found Aho alone in front, and the Carolina center banged the puck past defenseman Zach Werenski and into the vacant net for the win.
“He’s basically stepped into a role that was kind of an opportunity that’s been given him, just through injuries really,” Brind’Amour said, “you know that extra ice time, those extra opportunities, and he’s flourishing right now. So, thankfully for us, he’s played really well.”
Warren Foegele, Hurricanes forward — On top of his reckless elbow to Foligno, Foegele came up short with a chance to ice the game in regulation. Racing toward Columbus’ empty net, Foegele took fire but shot wide. Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones slashed at Foegele, but the replay showed that while Jones certainly rushed the Hurricanes winger, it made contact after the shot was released.
The Hurricanes iced the puck soon after and Columbus scored on the ensuing play with 14 seconds remaining in regulation to force OT.