The Carolina Hurricanes pushed their winning streak to five games, getting a power play goal from Vincent Trocheck, a shorthanded tally by Sebastian Aho, and even-strength goals from Nino Niederreiter and Warren Foegele to defeat the Florida Panthers 4-2 Sunday at PNC Arena.
Carolina improved to 17-6-1 on the season, moving a point ahead of Florida in the Central Division with 35 — just one behind first-place Tampa Bay, which has a game in hand on both the Hurricanes and Panthers.
1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour had bristled after recent games when questioned about his team’s third-period struggles, but he still seemed pleased to see a more complete, 60-minute effort from his team Sunday.
“It was a good effort all the way,” Brind’Amour said. “We didn’t really have any lows in the game. … I liked the fact that we hung in there, didn’t get frustrated and just kept playing and then made some big plays when we had to.”
The two days between games seemed to revitalize the Hurricanes, who extended their winning streak to five games by taking an early lead, extending it and then responding when Florida got on the board near the game’s midway point.
“It’s that mental break,” Brind’Amour said, “and it’s not even a break. We’re talking one day off. We had a practice, but it’s just getting a day where the guys can stay home and have a life for a little bit of time, I think to just kind of recharge the batteries.
“And then we’re right back at it here, another grind. But I think that it helped tonight maybe. We weren’t great, but we certainly were good, and we were good throughout the whole game. And that’s what was positive.”
2. I’ll keep mentioning it until it’s not true: Trocheck continues to own his old team, scoring for the fourth straight game against the Panthers this season.
Trocheck got the game’s first goal on the power play, taking a pass down low from Andrei Svechnikov and quickly spinning and firing a shot past Chris Driedger (22 saves) for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
“I think it’s just luck of the draw on that one,” Trocheck said of his success against his longtime team. “Obviously, it’s nice to get one against the former team. There’s motivation every night, so I don’t think it’s any different.”
Trocheck is now tied for fifth in the league goals and on pace for more than 30 goals in the shortened 56-game season.
3. Florida’s Patric Hornqvist started a scrum in the final minute that exhibited the frustrations the Panthers must have after allowing Carolina to earn seven of eight points against them halfway through the season series.
The Hurricanes, for their part, seemed to brush off the late-game theatrics. Foegele — who provided an insurance goal at 3:41 of the third — even seemed to welcome the animosity.
“You can tell that there’s something brewing here, for sure,” he said. “You’re playing the same team eight times this year. … You can see there at the end the emotions are up. And that’s one of the reasons why you love the game, playing with some emotion and fire. It’s nice to see the guys stick up for each other out there.”
Number To Know
2 — Penalty minutes for Jaccob Slavin in Sunday’s game, his first of the season. Slavin was called for delay of game in the second period, just the 30th minor penalty in the 398 NHL games of his six-season career. Slavin was going to be called for holding in Carolina’s 6-4 loss in Chicago on Feb. 4, but Patrick Kane scored with a backhand on the play to negate the delayed penalty.
Only Bill Quackenbush, who had just 95 penalty minutes in 775 games with Boston and Detroit from 1942-56, has fewer PIMs per game (0.12) among NHL defensemen with at least 300 games played than Slavin (0.15). Quakenbush was the first defenseman to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, earning the honor in 1948-49 after not being called for a single penalty in 60 games played, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.
Only three defensemen — three-time winner Red Kelly (1951, ’53, ’54), Quackenbush and Brian Campbell (2012) — have ever won the award. Slavin finished a career-high fourth in voting for the Byng last season despite earning the second-most first-place votes, only behind winner Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado.
They Said It
“Good question. No, I was on the ice, guy on my back the whole time. So I can’t tell you.”
— Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho on if he knew what happened that led to the teams scuffling near the end of the game.
Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes center — Florida entered the third period down a goal and with 1:19 of power play time to try and time the game. By the time their power play was over, the Panthers were down two thanks to Aho’s shorthanded goal.
Slavin zipped a pass about 115 feet from Carolina’s goal line onto the tape of Jordan Martinook’s stick, setting up a 2 on 1. Martinook got the puck to Aho, and he scored his ninth goal of the season 38 seconds into the final period to demoralize the Panthers.
“I thought I was the only guy there, but somehow we both were out there,” Aho said. “Great heads-up play by Slavo and Marty too — that was a nice pass on his backhand. That just shows how good of a player Slavo is. He can make those plays time and time (again), and big goal.”
The Hurricanes are now 6-1-1 when Aho scores a goal and 10-2-1 when he has a point.
Steven Lorentz, Hurricanes center — Coming off a healthy scratch and playing for the first time since he scored his first career NHL goal, Lorentz was beaten cleanly on a faceoff by Noel Acciari in the second period. The puck went right to Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who one-timed the puck past Hurricanes goalie James Reimer (21 saves) to cut Carolina’s lead in half. Lorentz won just 2 of 9 faceoffs on the night and he finished without a shot attempt.