RALEIGH, N.C. – They did it! The Carolina Hurricanes finally did it! Their journey to the NHL postseason will finally take place for the first time since 2009.
Fueled by goals from Warren Foegele, Justin Faulk, and Nino Niederreiter and a 36-save performance from goaltender Petr Mrazek, the Hurricanes topped the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on Thursday night.
The win came at the expense of losing netminder Cory Schneider who made 22 saves and was supported by only a goal – a point shot from Andy Greene that Mrazek couldn’t see with bodies in front of him.
Getting bailed out
Though not their best-played game, the effort to keep grinding while Mrazek solidly backstopped the effort is what Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said made the difference.
“This year, our goaltending was phenomenal – you could see it tonight,” Brind’Amour said.
“We weren’t playing that well, give the other team a ton of credit. But it didn’t feel like they were going to score. It just felt like, ‘okay, we’re gonna mess up, but Petr’s got it, Petr’s got it’. That’s real comforting for us (coaches) and the guys. When you make a mistake and the goalie bails you out – that goes a long way.“
Head on a swivel
The final result was heralded by a crowd of 17,645 on hand who scoreboard-watched and knew that coupled with a loss by the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals that Carolina had finally ended the NHL’s longest active team playoff drought of nearly 10 seasons.
After Greene’s goal opened the game’s scoring at the 4:56 mark, Foegele’s ninth goal of the season got the crowd going by the midpoint of the opening period and evened the score at 1-1.
A tape-to-tape pass from defenseman Dougie Hamilton put Foegele into the Devils’ zone with just Schneider to beat.
A sliding wrister between the pads did the trick.
Faulk’s power play blast from the point at 1:36 into the second period became the eventual game-winner on a play assisted by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Niederreiter scored the final goal that secured the win with 3:25 remaining in the game on an impressive break towards the Devils net that ended with a left-to-top right corner snap shot that Schneider had no chance on.
Though the Storm Surge had ended last game at PNC, led by captain Justin Williams, the Hurricanes stick-saluted and tapped the ice to show Caniacs their appreciation of them.
“It was awesome – it was absolutely awesome,” Williams said.
“The whole arena…how they put it up on the scoreboard…just the whole thing was awesome to see. It was awesome to feel. It was awesome to be a part of.”
“It’s a special feeling,” Teravainen added.
“You could see it. It’s been a long time since this team’s been in the playoffs. It’s been a grind all year. It’s been up and down, but it’s a great team. Everybody loves each other out there. We believe all the time and that’s what happens.
“Just work harder than the other teams. And that’s what we’ve been doing. That’s why we’re playing in the playoffs. It’s an exciting time and I feel that we’ve got way more. It’s nice to get there.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport