Frustration and passion fuse together while Ward keeps it all together
By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – It was the melding of so many little things that caused the Carolina Hurricanes to unleash an all-out onslaught against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena on Saturday night.
Power play goals from Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner in regulation preceded Noah Hanifin’s game-winner in overtime that gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 win.
Goaltender Cam Ward recorded his 299th career win with a 37-save performance, limiting goals to only Florida’s Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.
Carolina peppered Panthers netminder James Reimer with 19 shots during the first period and 47 total, including seven in overtime.
“I thought it was a competitive game; I thought both teams played very hard,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I thought there was a lot of passion in the game and makes for a better hockey game for everybody involved.”
While it was a tight-checking, low-scoring affair, indicative of both teams’ style of play, the x-factor for the Hurricanes was the cathartic release of frustration – a departure from their usual passive-aggressive demeanor.
While dominating play and posting the first goal on Lindholm’s tip-in off a Sebastian Aho feed from the left circle at 14:02 in the first, a 1-0 lead didn’t present much comfort.
Coming off a blowout loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden the night before, and having won just one out of its last five games, Carolina received many cheap shots from the Panthers that eventually had to be dealt with.
Sure, Florida paid the price for it during three man-down sequences in the period with Lindholm connecting on one of them for his seventh of the season, but one too many nudges from forward Jared McCann sent Carolina’s Brock McGinn over the edge.
The two squared off in the corner to Reimer’s right and infused some explosive energy in the building as 14,246 in attendance looked on.
Both earned fighting majors, with McGinn’s the first 5-minute penalty assessed to the Hurricanes in 25 games this season.
The cheap shots continued in the second period as Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson pushed and mauled Skinner with no one in the immediate vicinity to help him.
Skinner took matters into his own hands and face-washed Matheson and earned a double-minor for roughing while co-captain Justin Faulk eventually joined him in the box for engaging Michael Haley into the fray as well.
A few minutes later, a hard, solid shoulder-on-shoulder hit from the Hurricanes’ Joakim Nordstrom rocked Florida assistant captain Vincent Trocheck and sent his helmet flying in the air.
Yet another dance card assembled amongst the players on the ice, but no one took it further than tangling with and chirping at one another.
Still leading 1-0, and being outshot by a 20-11 margin, Carolina’s resistance to the Panthers’ bullying tactics reached another crescendo with 5:42 remaining in the period as Hanifin squared off with Florida captain Derek MacKenzie.
The young Hurricanes D-man held his own, tying the veteran up to slow his punches enough to eventually get a few in before landing on top of him.
The crowd, many dressed in Star Wars-themed garb as it was Star Wars night after all, showed its appreciation.
“It was a big deal,” Ward said.
“Obviously, they were trying to engage in that, thinking that were going to be able to push us around, and we showed that we had a lot of pushback. I’m old school, I like that sort of thing. I like the wolfpack mentality. I think it’s important that it’s still in the game; not necessarily fighting, but just sticking up for one another and being there to answer the bell. I mean Hanifin got in a fight, that’s awesome. Kudos to him for showing the ‘cojones’ (to do so).”
Carolina gave up a goal early in the third as Bjugstad tallied his sixth of the season at 4:52 before Skinner roofed a shot in close over Reimer’s trapper-side shoulder just under four minutes later to score his team-leading 10th.
Holding on to a 2-1 lead, the Hurricanes’ grip loosened after 10 minutes and Barkov tied it up again with 1:56 remaining – a marker that eventually sent the contest into overtime.
Carolina maintained puck possession for much of the five-minute period with Reimer remaining steady in facing six shots before Hanifin’s rebound put-back with two seconds left decided it.
“It was a great pass by Lindy,” Hanifin said.
“There wasn’t a lot of time left. I just hopped over the bench, Lindy found me, and I got lucky on the rebound. It was good execution.”
Along with his first career fight, the Boston-area native tallied his first game-winner of the season, and gave Carolina a much-needed win at home before heading on the road for 10 of its next 15 games in December.
“Yeah, it was a real hard-fought game,” Hanifin concluded.
“Obviously, last night was tough and we wanted to rebound and show some energy and character, and we did that.”
Notables: With two power-play goals on the night, the Hurricanes have scored six power-play goals in their last seven games (11/19-12/2: 6-for-24, 25%). They are 3-0-0 in games when they have scored two power-play goals this season…Lindholm posted his second multi-point game of the season, and is tied for first on the team in power play goals (3). He also paced Carolina in faceoff win-percentage (71%), winning 5-of-7 faceoffs throughout…Derek Ryan notched his eighth assist of the season on Skinner’s goal, and has recorded four points in his last five games (11/24-12/2: 1g, 3a).
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport