The Hurricanes continued their perfect March with a 2-1 win Sunday in Detroit. Dougie Hamilton and Nino Niederreiter scored for Carolina, and Alex Nedeljkovic fell just 10 seconds short of a shutout with 25 saves.
1. The Hurricanes pushed their winning streak to eight games with Sunday’s win and are now 20-6-1 on the season.
“There’s been some games where we haven’t played well where we score some goals and win those games and find ways to win,” Hamilton said. “I think good teams can play not their best and still find ways to win, and we’re doing that. I think we have confidence in our group that we can win every game if we play our style and play our game, and we’re doing well with that.”
Carolina has used a combination of dominant special teams, reliable goaltending and a commitment to its identity to put together its current streak. It has them near the top of the league despite the fact the team’s No. 1 goalie (Petr Mrazek), No. 2 center (Vincent Trocheck) and a top-line winger (Teuvo Teravainen) are all out with injuries.
Another piece of their success is the way players have stepped into the lineup. Steven Lorentz and Morgan Geekie have both been seamless additions, Cedric Paquette is bringing the fourth-line jam the team expected when it acquired him, and top prospects like Jake Bean and Nedeljkovic have lived up to their draft positions.
2. The Hurricanes’ special teams were again the difference in a win. On Sunday it was the penalty kill, which not only stopped Detroit on its two chance but also scored the game’s first goal when Hamilton called his own number on a 2-on-1 rush with Sebastian Aho. Carolina’s league-leading power play got only one chance and did not score.
“It was really solid,” Brind’Amour said of the penalty kill. “That was the difference in the hockey game. We had the one (shorthanded goal). We could have had a couple more. Some of our best chances came shorthanded, where I think Martinook had two 2-on-1s, and then Dougie gets one and puts it in.
“We always talk about it. Special teams are a huge part of the game, and we were definitely good tonight there.”
3. Perhaps most impressive in the win — and during this winning streak — is the way the team has allowed the game to come to them. Detroit, near the bottom of the NHL standings, might seem like an easy two points, but the Red Wings can surprise opponents that don’t respect their speed and skill.
Carolina was patient Sunday, sticking to its plan even after the game reached the midway point and neither team had scored.
“When you’re a young team you worry because guys, they always want to score every shift,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “They always want to try to make something happen every shift, and I think we’re learning still but we’re coming out of that, where we can be comfortable in the 0-0 game and it’s OK if we haven’t scored yet.
“You have to be patient in your game. Trust it that we’re fine in that kind of game. And so that’s how it was tonight. There wasn’t a ton of room, but we were fine. We were playing well, we weren’t giving up a ton, and that’s how it is in this league. So the more we can think that way, the better we’re going to be.”
The Hurricanes finally broke through with Hamilton’s end-to-end shorthanded goal, and then Carolina again counter-attacked to add an insurance goal.
Aho collected the puck after a blocked Red Wings shot and carried it all the way into the Detroit zone. He dropped the puck to Niederreiter, who had the space to pick a corner on Jonathan Bernier (30 saves) to make it 2-0 just 97 seconds into the third period.
Number To Know
4 — Defensemen with shorthanded goals this season. Hamilton got his first career shorthanded goal in Sunday’s win, and he joined Esa Lindell (Dallas), Jake Muzzin (Toronto) and Tyler Myers (Vancouver) as defensemen with a shorthanded goal this season. Lindell and Calgary’s Mark Giordano are the last defensemen to score more than one shorthanded goal in a season (2018-19). Giordano had four, while Lindell had two. Edmonton’s Paul Coffey had nine in 1985-86.
They Said It
“You guys can talk about my scoring, whatever, but I’m not really too worried about it. It’s just trying to play well and help the team out.”
— Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes defenseman — Hamilton has now scored in two straight after managing just one goal in the first 25 games of the season. Sunday’s goal came shorthanded — the first of his career — when he corralled the puck in the defensive zone and rushed up ice with Aho for a 2-on-1, shooting past Bernier to open the scoring at 15:13 of the second period.
James Reimer, Hurricanes goalie — Given Carolina’s top-to-bottom effort Sunday, the only way to end up here was by not playing. Reimer didn’t, but the veteran goalie has to be wondering what will happen once Mrazek is healthy. Nedeljkovic (6-2-1) has matched Reimer’s record (12-3-0) and done so with better numbers: a .929 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average to Reimer’s .908 and 2.71.
The Hurricanes have already shown the importance of having three capable goalies, but a decision will need to be made on who will ride shotgun to Mrazek once he’s ready to go.