The Carolina Hurricanes extended their point streak to seven games and narrowly won the season series against the Red Wings with a 3-1 win over Detroit on Thursday at PNC Arena.
Brady Skjei, Warren Foegele and Teuvo Teravainen scored for Carolina, which improved to 33-10-7 with a league-best 73 points. The Hurricanes are now two points ahead of the Panthers with two games in hand and three points in front of the Lightning — both the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay have six games remaining.
1. The first period of the game felt like so many others for the Hurricanes this season against the Red Wings: several minutes of utter dominance — including a full two-minute power play in the Detroit zone without any personnel changes for either team — with nothing to show for it.
So there was certainly a looming “here we go again” feel in PNC Arena after the opening period ended 0-0. It turns out Carolina had nothing to worry about.
After a first period in which the Hurricanes had a 56.67 CF% — pushed to the middle by Detroit’s push in the final minutes — Carolina kept on the pressure the rest of the way. The Red Wings were credited with 13 5-on-5 shot attempts in the first, but they managed only 15 the rest of the way as Carolina dominated possession at 69.39% in the final two periods.
So while the power play wasn’t able to convert in three attempts despite some of the best puck movement and retrieval of the season, the even-strength play created enough chances to generate three goals and limit Detroit to very few.
2. To quote “Nuke” LaLoosh in “Bull Durham,” Skjei announced his presence in the lineup with authority. Skjei missed four games after suffering a concussion on a hit from behind by Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman on April 20, but he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat Thursday.
With the game at 0-0 in the second period, Sebastian Aho gained the Detroit blue line and surveyed the zone until Brady Skjei entered the frame. Aho found the defenseman in stride at the left point, and Skjei got Detroit forward Vladislav Namestikov to drop to a knee on a shot fake. Skjei used that to take an extra couple strides into the slot and beat Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier (29 saves) to the glove side to open the scoring at 4:40 of the middle frame.
“I think after the first period I started feeling good,” said Skjei. “I did not play that good in the first. I think I turned it around in the second. Obviously, the goal helps. It took a little time to settle. I think in the second and third I got back to my game and started playing a lot better.”
Skjei finished with 18:39 of ice time, all at even-strength as Brind’Amour — as he did with Teravainen in his first game back Tuesday — eased Skjei back in by not putting him on the penalty kill in his return.
3. It was quietly a solid effort for James Reimer, who made 16 saves and snapped his two-game losing streak. After three straight months of piling up wins (3-0-0 in January; 6-3-0 in February; and 4-1-1 in March) with the help of some significant goal support, Reimer got to a winning record in April by improving to 2-1-1 just before the end of the month and is still clutching to a spot in the goalie rotation because of Petr Mrazek’s “tweaked” injury.
Brind’Amour said early Thursday that the team got good news on Mrazek and that he could be close to returning. That would likely mean Reimer would go back to being No. 3 behind Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic. While it has served Carolina well to have three capable goalies, Brind’Amour has made it clear the team needs to settle into having two — and that means every start Reimer makes, including last night’s, could be his last in a Hurricanes sweater.
Number To Know
6 — Players in the NHL with at least 20 goals and 30 assists this season. Aho reached the 30-assist mark with his two helpers Thursday, and he also has 21 goals. The other players are Edmonton stars Connor McDavid (28-56-84) and Leon Draisaitl (24-43-67), Boston’s Brad Marchand (27-33-60), and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (20-36-56) and Jake Guentzel (22-31-53).
Aho now has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) during his six-game point streak, and he is one of just 16 players this season with more than 20 primary assists, ranking tied for 10th with 22.
They Said It
— Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen on if he was looking to pass on his third-period goal.
Teuvo Teravainen, Hurricanes forward — Speaking of comebacks, Teravainen looked all the way back in his second game since also returning from a concussion. After earning a secondary assist on Skjei’s goal — the 300th point of his career — Teravainen got one of his own when he forced a turnover in the Detroit zone then took a pass from Aho and beat Bernier five-hole for his third goal of the season and first since Feb. 15.
While Teravainen is soft-spoken and perhaps not the most dogged practice player, there’s no denying his focus and determination once the lights are on.
“He’s very, very competitive,” Brind’Amour said. “When the puck drops for game time, he’s as competitive as anybody. I think he’d much rather play than practice, but he’s very competitive. … He’s a gamer.”
And perhaps even more important than Teravainen’s offensive contributions is his underrated defensive play.
“He makes the right plays all over the ice, and I knew he was going to be fine,” Aho, his longtime linemate and countryman, said.
Teravainen, per usual, was understated in discussing the progress of his awaited comeback.
“Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe (I feel) a little better. I think I got a couple more pucks today, so that’s always good and being around the puck a little more. Otherwise, I felt fine in both games.”
Max McCormick, Hurricanes forward — McCormick continues to play well on Carolina’s fourth line — so well that he is making a case for a full-time NHL roster spot next season when the league expands to 32 teams and adds 22 or 23 jobs. But the fact remains his two-game goal streak came to an end Thursday and could put him in jeopardy of again being the odd-man-out if Jesper Fast — who took the morning skate Thursday — returns to the ice Saturday.
Morgan Geekie continues to generate scoring chances every night, and Steven Lorentz’s size, speed and forechecking have helped Carolina’s fourth line maintain its identity without Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn in the lineup.
That means that McCormick, despite his contributions, looks like he’s again destined for the taxi squad. Either way, the Hurricanes will rest easy knowing they have another play who can step in during times of need.