RALEIGH, N.C. – The end result was a valuable two points earned, but it didn’t seem like an overly exciting game to watch.
The Carolina Hurricanes continued their season following the NHL All-Star break with a 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights at PNC Arena on Friday night.
Following up on a successful three-game road swing through Western Canada that ended with 5-2 win in Vancouver on Jan. 23, the Hurricanes’ push for a wildcard spot continued to move upward.
Albeit at what seemed a slower pace than usual, but one which Vegas matched according to Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“A real solid effort. If you talk to them, they probably thought they were a little sluggish – not sharp,” he said.
“Execution wasn’t great, but the effort level was really high. I’m really happy obviously for the win, but certainly the way we played and the effort.”
Goaltender Petr Mrazek’s 23-save performance reinforced the Hurricanes’ work against the Golden Knights.
At the other end, Maxime Lagace’s first start didn’t end as well while he faced 31 shots against.
From the long view, both sides looked less than enthusiastic at times in pursuit of the puck and one another, but to the casual observer of the 17,104 watching, the non-stop movement and close score through two periods made it eventful.
With Micheal Ferland on one bench and Ryan Reaves on the other, one hoped maybe that the Carolina edition of Friday Night Fights would take place and really blow the lid off the place.
That never happened.
It was as if the two had a predetermined truce that allowed both teams collectively to go head-to-head in skating, puck possession, and ultimately taking advantage of the other’s misfortunes.
“The chances they created, I thought we gave them,” Brind’Amour pointed out.
“When we managed the puck in our end, they didn’t get it that much. When we’re playing well, we do that extremely well. We manage it right.”
Nino Niederreiter’s fifth goal in five games played with Carolina to-date as well as Brett Pesce’s fourth of the season were offset by Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore’s two markers.
Aside from a nifty back-pass from Jason Williams’ skate, Niederreiter’s goal held historical significance.
Justin Faulk’s assist to initiate the play put him in sole possession of the franchise’s all-time points lead for defensemen, currently at 242 (78g, 164a).
“I hope I can add to it a bit,” Faulk said while trying to deflect attention from achieving the mark.
“It’s not really in my head right now. I’m just playin’ and tryin’ to do my thing out there.”
While both Theodore’s seeing-eye shots got past Mrazek as he seemed to misalign himself with each, the Golden Knights couldn’t stay even.
Jordan Martinook’s 11th goal this season, tying a career high, gave Carolina a 3-2 lead heading into the final period.
“He’s been great,” Faulk said of Mrazek.
“Every goalie that’s been in net has done their part. He made a big save there at the end of the second period. That was huge. That brought us some comfort coming into the second intermission with the lead.”
While Mrazek continued to stymie the Golden Knights for the final 20 minutes, a short-side, top-shelf backhander from Sebastian Aho finalized the decision and was accentuated with an empty netter from Faulk.
“The third period I thought was great,” Brind’Amour concluded.
“We were up a goal, but we looked like the team that needed to get a couple. And, that’s the way we have to play.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport