RALEIGH, N.C. – A critical two points were at stake.
Just by waiting for their Metropolitan Division matchup with the New York Islanders, the Carolina Hurricanes were on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
Then, in dramatic fashion, the end of an eight-round shootout put them back into the first wildcard spot they occupied two days earlier.
Thanks to a first-star 26-save performance from goaltender James Reimer and a clinching shootout goal from recently returned forward Justin Williams, the Hurricanes topped the Islanders 2-1 on Sunday.
As many would say, you couldn’t have scripted the ending any better, including the former captain leading the postgame Surge with a salute to all the service men and women in attendance for Military Appreciation Day.
“It’s a pretty exciting game, that’s for sure,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“Everybody’s in it. Everyone understands that all these points are so valuable. The push has been on for a while. We needed those points and it was a good night.”
Not having played a game since last May’s Eastern Conference Final loss to the Boston Bruins, Williams’ return to the lineup was a highly anticipated one.
With Carolina carrying a three-game winless slide into the game, Brind’Amour decided to insert his former teammate into the lineup because he thought he was ready.
“He certainly didn’t look out of place,” Brind’Amour noted.
“Right from the start, his first shift was a good shift. I expected him to be a little more rusty to be honest with you – just the pace. That was a fast game too. But he fit right in.”
Finishing with just over 13 minutes of playing time with three shots on goal, a hit, giveaway, and blocked shot during regulation time, Williams was ready when called upon during the shootout.
“I was nervous the whole game – it was a playoff game. There were chances either way and it could have gone either way. Thankful for the opportunity to take a penalty shot. You can’t calm yourself down at that point. You do your best, take a deep breath, and say ‘here we go’.”
Svechnikov sets the bar
The Hurricanes took the lead at the 5:45 mark of the opening period on Andrei Svechnikov’s slap shot from the circle to Islanders keeper Thomas Greiss’ left.
The puck ricocheted off and broke the stick of defenseman Noah Dobson while fluttering high and over the netminder’s shoulder.
The 1-0 advantage carried over late into the second period until a rebound off Reimer’s pads gave New York captain Anders Lee the opportunity to even the score 1-1 with 56 seconds remaining.
With three shots apiece coming from Svechnikov and six others, including Williams, Greiss locked down his net throughout the third and overtime periods.
Reimer did the same.
“It was really tight and it was a great battle,” the young Russian noted.
Reimer shuts it down
While Greiss couldn’t deny Svechnikov nor Teuvo Teravainen in the shootout, Reimer lapsed in allowing Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier to get the puck past him.
Then both goalies locked it down against four shooters each before Williams got the nod.
He knew Greiss was dialed in but figured to shoot between his pads and play the odds.
That left Reimer to get one back from Lee who sought to even the score again.
He didn’t and solidified the win for Reimer and the Hurricanes.
“I would have liked to make the save on Beauvillier and have it over a lot sooner, but it is what it is,” Reimer said.
“Greisser is a heck of a goalie, heck of a shootout goalie so for us to get two on him is big. It’s really a testament to some of the skill we have in here. Obviously when Willy scored, you have to make that save. You try to be big and hold your ground and make it at the end. Luckily, I made one.”
Notables: Carolina finished 0-2 on the power play, 32-150 (21.3%) overall…On the PK, the Hurricanes went 3-3, 143-172 (82.8%) overall… In his last three starts, Reimer has stopped 102 of 105 shots (97.1%). Over his last 13 starts, Reimer has posted a 9-2-1 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and three shutouts…Scoring his fifth career shootout-deciding goal, Williams registered his first shootout goal since Nov. 27, 2013, and his first shootout-deciding goal since Nov. 16, 2011, both while playing for the Los Angeles Kings.
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