RALEIGH, N.C. – The game was more or less over in two minutes and 16 seconds.
Goaltender Curtis McElhinney was the first star with his 40-save performance that led the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
Forward Nino Niederreiter provided the offense, scoring twice – in the first and third periods – while Lucas Wallmark tallied his seventh goal of the season as the Hurricanes generated 27 shots throughout.
“It’s one of the only games I can remember when we never really got to our game at all,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“There were spurts, but that’s why goaltending is so important.”
Jumping out early
Carolina got out to a 2-1 lead following the opening puck drop, and that’s all they eventually needed to earn another win, their fifth in their last six games.
Niederreiter scored 37 seconds in.
Leon Draisaitl was the only one who answered for the Oilers at the 1:32 mark.
Wallmark then scored 44 seconds later.
Game over despite Edmonton outshooting Carolina by a 14-shot differential.
McElhinney made exceptional saves at even strength and during three Oiler power plays.
At the other end, Edmonton netminder Mikko Koskinen regrouped after his weak start, but didn’t get any more offensive support in the losing cause.
After such an explosive start it became a waning puck battle of attrition.
“Pucks didn’t go in, I think we stopped getting to the net,” Brind’Amour pointed out while trying to explain the sudden halt of explosive scoring from both sides.
“We didn’t get a shot until after the 11-minute mark on into the second (period). Now we were in the penalty box. That, to me, was also a big part of the game. Some good kills. We got fortunate with some good saves. That was probably the difference in the game.”
Keeping ‘him’ in check
Keeping the NHL’s third-leading scorer, Connor McDavid, off the score sheet was a key factor not to be overlooked.
Logging just over 25 minutes of playing time, McDavid couldn’t get any of his four shot attempts past McElhinney.
“They brought a lot of speed there in the first period,” the goalkeeper said following his fourth consecutive win in as many starts.
“It was a little overwhelming for the first little bit, but as the game wore on, we started to do a better job mitigating that.”
With a baseball-themed Storm Surge celebration, the Hurricanes faithful comprising the majority of the 14,340 in attendance witnessed another win for their team.
It was number 30 on the season, a bench mark that made Brind’Amour the fastest head coach in franchise history to reach it.
The Hurricanes currently sit at 30-22-6 overall and pushed closer to a wildcard playoff spot, sitting one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think everyone knows what kind of position we’re in,” Niederreiter said.
“Everybody needs to get points and make the playoffs. We’re right there and we need a big push to get there. Every game matters a lot, so we gotta make sure we win the close ones.”
“I think we’re getting critical plays at critical times right now,” McElhinney added.
“Obviously we know what the situation is, and its gonna take a lot for us to get into the playoffs. But the guys have been rollin’ since before the (All-Star) break, and we came out of it pretty hot, so it’s just a matter of gas pedal to the floor.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport