Tracking the Storm: Analysis from Columbus
-- Yes-vember continued for the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in Columbus, as they held on to defeat the Blue Jackets 4-2 for their third straight victory. Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash, Justin Faulk and Eric Staal (empty net) scored for the visiting squad, and Cam Ward posted his third consecutive win in net, making 17 saves.
"We're rolling. The guys are playing really well," Ward said. "We got off to a good start once again. We pushed the pace early on and threw a lot of rubber at McElhinney. ... It was a complete effort from everybody."
"It always feels good to win," head coach Bill Peters said. "If you can put a streak together, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, it feels good and gives the guys energy. Our room is full of life right now.”
-- Starting his fourth straight game in net, Cam Ward didn’t see a lot of action, but he was sharp when called upon, especially down the stretch.
"He made a couple big saves at key times," Peters said. "He’s done that here for quite awhile.”
He kept the contest scoreless early in the first period, when he denied Ryan Johansen on a shorthanded rush. It was a timely save and gave the Hurricanes a chance to eventually snag the lead in a period they controlled for the most part.
Early in the third period, Ward dove across the crease to deny a bid from Matt Calvert, which preserved the team’s two-goal lead.
In the final five minutes of the game, Ward came up with a number of big stops to solidify the Canes' 4-2 victory.
"I saw a lot of cluster in front of me, but the puck never seemed to get to me. That’s a compliment to the guys," Ward said. "They were boxing out and blocking a lot of shots. I was working, but I didn’t have to touch the puck. The guys played really well, and we’ve got a good thing going. We want to keep it going.”
Tonight was Ward's fourth consecutive start, and his third in four nights. He relishes that opportunity.
"You get into a rhythm," he said. "Especially when you're playing well, you want to get right back at it and get back into the net."
-- Another strong opening 20 minutes resulted in another lead for the Hurricanes, who scored first for the third game in a row. That goal belonged to Zach Boychuk, as he cleaned up a rebound off a point shot for Tim Gleason. Curtis McElhinney had been spitting rebounds out left and right, and it was a matter of time before the Canes cashed in on one.
"It was kind of a lucky play. The puck bounced right to me," Boychuk said. "I made a quick move to the backhand and put it in the empty net."
Less than two minutes later, Riley Nash gave the Canes a 2-0 lead. From the slot, he corralled the puck on what looked to be a shot from Andrej Sekera. Nash then put it past an out-of-position McElhinney.
"I thought we were ready to play. We deserved the goals we got, and we continued to work and stayed with it. We were real aggressive. The first two periods, we were really on the attack," Staal said. "When they pushed back, Cam was big.”
-- Give credit to the Hurricanes for mental fortitude coming into the second period. Columbus scored a power-play goal with just 1:01 left in the first period to cut Carolina’s lead in half. That could have easily been a momentum-crippling tally, but the Canes maintained their one-goal advantage before turning it into a 3-1 lead nearly seven minutes in.
Justin Faulk burst into the zone shorthanded, beating McElhinney for his first goal of the season and the team’s first shorthanded goal; Carolina scored 11 goals on the man disadvantage in 2013-14.
"It’s a momentum swing, for sure, and it ends up being the game-winner," Peters said. "It was a huge play. They’re thinking of getting one to tie it up, and the next thing you know they’re down two. It’s a lot easier in this league to play with a lead, and a two-goal lead especially.”
-- A frustrated Columbus team began taking some liberties physically in the third period, the most egregious of which was Jack Johnson's blindside shot to the head of Jiri Tlusty. Tlusty was slow to get up, and somehow, Johnson received only two minutes for the vicious headshot. It's an illegal hit that should be reviewed by the NHL, and there's no reason Johnson should be in the lineup come Friday in Raleigh.
Tlusty left the game and did not return.
"He said he feels fine. It looked pretty bad. It doesn’t look good when you look at the video. But he said he feels fine," Peters said. "He’ll go get looked at … and go through all the procedure he needs to go through and hopefully everything’s fine.”
-- The Canes held the Blue Jackets to just 12 shots through 40 minutes, including a measly three in the middle frame. Carolina had already posted 18 shots on goal in the first period alone. The Canes would go on to total 37, again breaching the 35-shot threshold.
"We’re trying to focus on getting pucks to the net and guys to the net," Boychuk said. "For us to take advantage early on was good."
-- On the legal side of physicality, Brett Bellemore continues to just hammer the opposition. He was credited with four hits, tied for the team lead, against the Kings on Sunday, and he posted another four tonight in Columbus. His physical presence is exactly what the Canes need from him.
-- After being a healthy scratch for the last two games, tonight was important for Alexander Semin. Peters said this morning that he wanted to see Semin work and play with the pace of the league. Semin skated at even strength on the top line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty, while Jeff Skinner slotted in his wing spot on the power play.
-- The Hurricanes will face these same Blue Jackets in Raleigh on Friday, a home-and-home situation with a built-in two-day buffer.
"It’s not going to change a whole bunch. I’d be shocked if it did. We know what to expect," Peters said about the Friday rematch. “We’ll take a day off, have a good practice on Thursday and be ready for Friday and Saturday.”
"We want to keep this feeling going," Staal said. "We’re feeling more comfortable with what we’re doing. We’ve just got to keep building. It’s a lot funner being on the winning side than where we were before.”