The Hurricanes trailed by two goals early but rallied back and won late in regulation on Martin Necas’ second goal and fourth point of the night in a 4-3 win Saturday at PNC Arena. The victory pushed Carolina into first in the NHL in points percentage.
Cedric Paquette and Sebastian Aho also scored for the Hurricanes.
1. Beating the Lightning is hard on any night. The Hurricanes did it despite spotting Tampa Bay two goals.
First, Lightning forward Blake Coleman beat Jordan Martinook to the front of the Carolina net and redirected a Jan Rutta shot past James Reimer (19 saves) to make it 1-0. Then Reimer misplayed a loose puck that he thought he had covered and Patrick Maroon banged it in to give Tampa a 2-0 lead before the game was even six minutes old.
The Hurricanes, however, got up off the canvas — and Necas came up punching.
Necas had four points on the night, factoring in on all of Carolina’s goals. That included three points in a second period in which the Hurricanes turned their early deficit into a 3-2 lead, and he added the game-winner on the power play with under four minutes left for the second four-point game of his career.
“It was definitely a tough start,” Necas said. “I don’t think we played that bad in the first period … maybe didn’t have a little luck. But the second period we started playing really well, we got some power plays, and we just turned the game around.”
Necas assisted on the first two goals — saucering a pass to Paquette on his goal and starting the sequence that led to some nifty passing with his linemates on Aho’s score — then scored the Hurricanes’ final two.
2. Speaking of Paquette, he has now scored in two straight and continues to be a nuisance for opponents — even when it’s his old team. He played just 6:21 on Saturday but made an impact.
“He’s in a tough spot because I don’t play him that much,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You know, I probably could play more. But every shift that he goes out there, he gives it everything he has. And whether he scores or not, it’s just he’s noticeable and a great teammate. The guys really, really appreciate how he plays.”
As for his goal, Paquette didn’t overthink his breakaway against former teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“Vasy takes breakaway after every morning skate and I don’t score on him,” Paquette said. “I just told myself I’m not going to try what I did in practice and just try to shoot through him, and it worked.”
3. The Hurricanes got their fourth straight power play since the midway point of the game after a tripping call on defenseman Andreas Borgman with 4:21 left. Necas scored the go-ahead goal on the final one, so it was no surprise when Jesper Fast was called for a trip 88 seconds later to give the Lightning a chance to tie it.
What was surprising is Tampa coach Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy (36 saves) to give his team a two-man advantage, waiting as time ticked away and then unable to do so as Carolina stymied the Lightning on entry after entry.
The Lightning managed just two shots by Victor Hedman, both blocked by Hurricanes penalty killers, and in losing surrendered the top spot in the league to Carolina.
Number To Know
.742 — The Hurricanes’ point percentage on the season after improving to 23-7-3, moving them past the Lightning for the best record in the NHL. Tampa Bay, with 50 points, is still one point ahead of Carolina, but the Hurricanes have a game in hand.
They Said It
“I was just buzzing around. I tried to wait for somebody to get open, but it was first lap, second lap, and I was like, ‘should probably pass it to somebody.’”
— Hurricanes forward Martin Necas on the two laps he took around the Tampa Bay zone during a first-period sequence.
Martin Necas, Hurricanes forward — With superstars all over the ice, Necas was the best player in PNC Arena. He finished with two goals and two assists, but he also hit two posts while finishing with 10 shot attempts — including six on goal.
“I think he’s never lacked for confidence,” Brind’Amour said. “I think he’s been, from day one, always trying to make plays, and we encourage it. But I think now there’s a little more understanding of when and where to make plays.
“And you can see, too, he’s mature. He’s physically a little stronger, which I think goes a long way to having your own confidence in what’s going on.”
Like Brind’Amour, Aho said the things Necas is doing aren’t unexpected.
“I would not say surprised, but definitely a fun guy to play with.”
Paquette saw a little bit of Necas as an opponent last season but certainly has an appreciation for his play now.
“He’s been unreal lately. He’s good,” Paquette said. “He’s got some skills, got a crazy shot, and he’s got confidence right now, so it’s great for us.”
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes center — Like most of the Hurricanes, Geekie lost the possession battle against the Lightning. He finished with just a 22.2% Corsi For, was on the ice for two goals against and was held without a shot attempt in 8:26 of ice time. He was also part of a second power play unit that managed just three shot attempts and one shot on goal in 2:40 of man-advantage time.