RALEIGH, N.C. – Home is where the heart is, and the Carolina Hurricanes displayed a lot of it when they pieced together an exhilarating, if not downright crazy 8-6 win over the Vancouver Canucks at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Jeff Skinner’s two goals led seven different scorers for Carolina as two power play goals and an empty-netter finalized the winning result in backup goaltender Michael Leighton’s favor after coming in for starter Cam Ward.
Sebastian Aho, Ron Hainsey, Victor Rask, Justin Faulk, Jordan Staal, and Lee Stempniak all tallied singles and helped fuel a 2-for-3 night on the power play while the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill added two more denials to its ledger.
Vancouver also had a two-goal scorer in Sven Baertschi, and five different scorers while using both goaltenders as well.
“Crazy,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peter said of the final outcome.
“It’s a lot of goals to give up,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins added from his end of the rink during the postgame scrum.
It had been a long time since either had combined with an opponent for 14 goals.
For Carolina, that last happened back in 2005, while for the Canucks, it was even longer, dating back to 1995.
The Hurricanes extended their win streak at home to seven games and compiled their highest scoring output of the season, scoring six times in the third period to post the win.
However, their defensive play early on left much to be desired and allowed Vancouver to establish a sizeable lead.
“We were legless,” Peters said.
“I’ll take some of the blame for that – probably skated too much comin’ off the West coast trip. We had a great practice at RCI the other day, but it affected us here today. We were definitely legless – we were legless throughout the lineup. It looked like the puck was a 10-pound weight on our stick and it just hung on our stick. We couldn’t move it; we couldn’t get any puck speed. But, they just hung in there and did a great job.”
Getting some legs back into action
Carolina’s lineup was bolstered by the return of forwards Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm, both recovered from injuries, and who contributed offensively late in the game.
“It was a little slow in the first, even in the second in gettin’ the legs goin’ a bit,” Staal said.
“In the first period, I had a couple of long ones (shifts) that kind of hurt me I think. You get excited and show you want to play. I started shortening them up, started to feel a lot better and feelin’ good in the third – gettin’ my legs and speed goin’ again.”
Aho started it all off when he tipped in defenseman Brett Pesce’s shot and put the Hurricanes ahead 1-0 at the 5:27 mark of the first period
Pesce joined the rush after Aho carried the puck out of the Carolina zone before pushing it forward to linemate Lee Stempniak.
After crossing the Vancouver blue line, Stempniak made a cross-ice pass to Pesce who put a shot towards Canucks netminder Ryan Miller before Aho tipped in his fifth goal of the season.
After a defensive breakdown during which no Carolina player got a blade on a loose puck in front of Ward, Baertschi picked it up and his backhander beat the sprawling keeper and tied the score 1-1.
As quickly as the Canucks had tied the game, Carolina regained the lead two minutes later on Skinner’s rebound off a Noah Hanifin point shot on the power play as Erik Gudbranson sat in the box for charging.
With enough time and space in the low slot, Skinner beat Miller low to his blocker and put the Hurricanes up 2-1 with 10:35 remaining.
Ryan, who drew the penalty, also assisted on the power play marker.
He finished the game with a career-high three helpers and extended his current point streak to four games, part of a 10-point accumulation of four goals and six assists in his last nine games.
Both teams also showed their physical prowess during the period as Hainsey stood up Canucks forward Loui Eriksson with a body check that sent both players into the right-side boards outside the Hurricanes blue line.
The hit prompted Vancouver’s Luca Sbisa to offer Hainsey an opportunity to tangle with him, to which the Hurricanes rearguard obliged to the delight of the 11,721 in attendance before they were sent off to serve their fighting majors.
Ward stayed sharp, and made a pad save on Markus Granlund’s attempt that helped carry Carolina’s 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The second period was another story as Vancouver dominated early and often, scoring three times.
Vancouver evened the score again at the 4:11 mark of the second when Alex Burrows one-timed a pass from Baertschi just inside the post to Ward’s left.
Barely a minute later, the Hurricanes defense was once again caught flat-footed and allowed Granlund to push the puck past Ward and gave the Canucks their first lead of the game, 3-2.
The goal prompted Peters to pull Ward and replace him with Michael Leighton at that point, just over five minutes in.
The Hurricanes’ legless play on defense continued.
Ben Hutton extended the Vancouver lead to two goals, in part thanks to a tip off Canes forward Tuevo Teravainen’s stick, as the Canucks D-man’s slap shot from the left circle took a high bounce off the ice before flying under the cross bar past Leighton’s right shoulder.
Following a scoreless Vancouver power play sequence, Baertschi scored his second of the game in close as no one picked him up in front of Leighton and allowed him to easily one-time a pass into the net off a feed from Henrik Sedin.
“We obviously knew that we didn’t start the second period very good – couldn’t blame any of that on Wardo,” Leighton said.
“He was makin’ some saves for us. My first intention was to go in and make a couple of good saves and hopefully turn some momentum around. Didn’t really work out that way – they scored on second and third shot. My mindset was just to give our team a chance to comeback.”
Nearing the end of the period, Carolina’s second man-advantage of the game couldn’t beat Miller, but almost took his head off.
A point shot from Faulk immediately knocked the mask off the Canuck netminder’s head and twirled in the air as the play was whistled down.
It warmed him up for his eventual tally later on.
Though not scoring and trailing 5-2, the Hurricanes looked to regroup during the intermission in hopes of capitalizing on a power play opportunity they started the next period with.
“We knew our legs weren’t exactly there,” Staal said.
“We knew we had the power play goin’ into the third, and we wanted to gain momentum. It was guys knowin’ that we’re gonna try to get as much momentum as we can on this power play – a goal – if not – a lot of chances.”
A momentous third period
The break was just what was needed as Carolina wasted no time in pulling closer, scoring four goals in the first five minutes of play.
Skinner scored his second of the game with the man-advantage as he redirected a pass from Ryan at the top of the crease and cut the Vancouver lead to 5-3 at the 1:16 mark.
“I give the guys all the credit in the world,” Peters said.
“We knew how big that power play was to start the third period. We knew if we had a successful power play whether it scored or not, we could get momentum from that. Obviously we did get the ultimate payoff with a goal and it did give us momentum.”
A point shot from Hainsey then found its way through traffic and over Miller’s shoulder as it flew past Skinner’s screen in front and into the net three minutes later.
Trailing 5-4, the Hurricanes weren’t close to done.
Barely had the crowd’s jubilation over the confirmed video review of Hainsey’s goal subsided when Ryan found Rask open at the left circle and he beat Miller to tie the score 5-5.
It didn’t end there though.
Faulk then found the back of the net as his shot was deflected by Vancouver defenseman Nikita Tryamkin‘s stick past Miller.
With the Hurricanes leading 6-5, Desjardins pulled Miller and replaced him with Jacob Markstrom with 14:04 to play.
Staal then scored what seemed like an insurance marker, tucking away a rebound off Lindholm’s initial shot off the right wing.
It extended Carolina’s lead to 7-5.
However, former Hurricanes forward Brandon Sutter’s solo effort that started at center ice, along the right boards and towards the top of Leighton’s crease cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 7-6 with 5:50 to play.
The Canucks were soon afforded a power play opportunity and a chance to tie the score again when Lindholm was called for tripping Henrik Sedin.
Carolina’s penalty kill withstood that onslaught as Leighton made a few key stops during the sequence.
“Our PK’s been great since I’ve been here,” Leighton added.
“It’s been great before that too. It’s a big part of our team and our identity as a team. Especially to kill it with four minutes left – that’s huge.”
Stempniak’s empty-netter, his sixth goal of the season, with 58 seconds remaining capped off the win.
Whether its viewed as an offensive showcase or a defensive debacle, the game was entertaining for everyone in the building.
“It was a fun game,” Staal concluded.
“I’ve only been part of a few of those kind of games, and they’re fun. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it. I know we did. It was nice to get two points.
“We’re on the cusp of moving forward and being a really good team. We’ve been playin’ really good and we’re going to continue to build on that.”