By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – It didn’t take long for the Carolina Hurricanes to start scoring goals on Friday night – 14 seconds to be exact.
An opening period scoring barrage established the momentum the Hurricanes needed in skating to a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at PNC Arena.
Brett Pesce, Phil Di Giuseppe, Sebastian Aho, and Justin Williams all tallied goals that led to the overwhelming deficit imposed on Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
While Carolina fired 33 shots at the Vancouver net, Michael Del Zotto posted the lone goal for the Canucks as Hurricanes goalkeeper Scott Darling earned the win with a 22-save performance.
“You gotta try and jump on teams,” Williams said.
“You could tell they kinda got their legs a little bit in the second period, and then we kinda shut it down.”
Darling earned his first win since Jan. 11th, a boost of confidence for him and the team, still sitting a point out of a wildcard spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings behind the New York Islanders.
The win evened the two teams’ series at one win apiece for the season after Markstrom posted his first career shutout over the Hurricanes back on Dec. 5th.
“I’ve just been workin’ hard in practice the last couple of weeks, biding my time, making sure I was as ready as I could possibly be for this one,” Darling stated.
“I felt really good tonight.”
Carolina provided its netminder some comfort right from the opening faceoff as Aho and Jordan Staal helped set Pesce up for his second goal of the season.
The defenseman snapped a shot off the post to Markstrom’s left and gave the Hurricanes a very early 1-0 lead.
The goal set a franchise record for the earliest scored by a blueliner, nine seconds quicker than the previous mark.
In typical fashion, the Hurricanes wore down the Canucks through the neutral zone and in and around Markstrom’s net.
Di Giuseppe scored his first of the season by snapping the puck off keeper’s pad from in close at the 14:43 mark while Aho extended the lead to 3-0 on a breakaway slider between the cushions with 56 seconds remaining.
Vancouver showed a little more life in the second, despite playing without leading scorer Brock Boeser.
A point shot from Del Zotto changed directions twice with traffic in front of Darling and bulged the twine behind his trapper to cut the Carolina lead to two.
The Hurricanes had ample opportunities to really blow the game open but went scoreless on two power plays.
Carrying a 3-1 lead into the final period, a turnover by forward Jeff Skinner set Williams up to snipe a shot past Markstrom and finalize the game’s scoring.
“I thought we got a lot of offense off of transition tonight,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought everyone found a way to contribute. All in all, it was a good night.”
Emotional roster moves
After shaking up the roster by waiving and sending Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris to Charlotte, the Hurricanes put forth a solid offensive performance.
Was it a significant factor in how this team responded?
The reaction to the moves was raw and honest.
“It’s tough,” Peters said.
“That’s a hard thing to do. It’s a tough time of year around the league with the trade deadline comin’. Those are two good men, both NHL players, and tough decisions have to be made.”
“That’s the stuff that you look at, and the human aspect comes into it,” Williams added.
“Those are two guys that I really got to know; and you know what, they could be back. That’s kinda what you gotta remind yourself of, it’s certainly not bye forever. Whatever happens in the hockey world is gonna happen. They’re two good guys and two good players – they’ll land somewhere.”
When asked if such a personnel move had any impact on other players to motivate them to improve the team’s overall play, Williams quickly dismissed the notion.
“Nah, I certainly wouldn’t correlate anything to that,” he said while pointing to the electronic board showing the current league standings.
“That’s our only motivation right there – to get above the cut line.”
Notes: Defenseman Jaccob Slavin played his 200th NHL/Hurricanes games against Vancouver… Aho posted his team leading 11th multi-point game (1g, 1a) of the season. The young Finn is the first Hurricanes player since Skinner (2010-12) to score 20 or more goals in each of his first two NHL campaigns. He’s tallied five points in six games since returning from injury on Jan. 30 (1/302/9: 4g, 1a)… Williams scored his 10th goal of the season and passed Tuomo Ruutu (90) for ninth on Carolina’s all-time goals list (since relocation).
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport