Carolina Hurricanes: Shut out Pens, stay in playoff hunt

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 05: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores past Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on February 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 05: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores past Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on February 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes systematically took down the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading to a 4-0 shutout victory for the second season in a row. It opened up the five game road trip against one of their toughest foes in spectacular fashion.

What a game that was. If the Carolina Hurricanes had played every game of the season like that this team would have 100+ points already and all be labeled gods of hockey. The tenacity, speed, physicality and effort of the team were all operating at 100% last night, and the result reflected that by the time 60 minutes were done.

It was done quickly, with very few opportunities for TV timeouts or to clear the ice of snow. This game was played at breakneck pace. The Penguins were having a difficult time focusing and maintaining control of the puck, while the Carolina Hurricanes seemed to be in full control of the game almost all of the time. Time and time again wave after wave of forechecking and attacking Hurricanes hit the Pens like the Florida Coast in the summer.

The Carolina Hurricanes would have tacked on perhaps two or three, or even six, more goals had it not been for the efforts of Matt Murray in net for the Penguins. He stopped 28 of 31 shots for a .908 sv%, which is pretty good. Unluckily for him his opponent across the ice, Curtis McElhinney, stopped all 23 shots fired at him in what was a godlike performance. These weren’t weak shots folks, we can take all the footage of his stops from this game and compile a complete goalie instructional video set from basic to the highest advanced levels. Just take a look at this ridiculous save off the end of his pads he makes here:

It wasn’t just McElhinney who came up huge and contributed to a shutout victory. Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk all came up huge in defense combining for 10 blocked shots. Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan each had five hits, as the Carolina Hurricanes racked up a huge 38 hits on the unsuspecting Pens. Granted, the Penguins also had an equal 38 hits on the Carolina Hurricanes; however, Carolina seemed to be hitting a lot harder as many Penguins fans were visibly upset with the lack of calls.

The lack of calls may have come from the lack of referees in the game. In a rare moment one of the refs, Brian Pochmara, got hurt early in the game; he was listed with a lower body injury after the first period and didn’t return. This allowed for a more high-tempo game that hasn’t been seen in what feels like decades. Coach Rod Brind’Amour had the Carolina Hurricanes prepared for such a game, while the Penguins seemed to be caught in their 80s-themed night – the 80s being a decade where the Pens were so awful, they missed the playoffs seven times in an era where only five teams missed the playoffs each year.

Since the Carolina Hurricanes were a different team in that decade, they remained unaffected. After the most of the first period seemed either pretty equal or possibly in the Penguins favor, Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook wanted to change that. After a clean entry, McGinn dropped the puck to Martinook and the new father summoned further thoughts of his son and willed the puck past Murray with less than a minute left in the period:

That goal extended his career-high goal record to 12 goals, and counting. Things just keep getting better and better for Marty. But he wouldn’t be the only player to extend his career-high goal record as Brett Pesce scored in the second period to push the team to a 2-0 lead, and improve his career-high to 5 goals. I know this is technically cheating but Andrei Svechnikov, playing in his rookie campaign in the NHL, also extended his career-high by scoring his 13th goal of the season with his late 3rd period goal that gave Carolina the final score. Ferland’s empty netter from center ice which sealed the game was his 14th goal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

All in all this was a complete effort from top to bottom. Perfection in net. Perfection on defence. Perfection on offense as well, as the Carolina Hurricanes scored when it mattered most and when it hurt the Pens the most. Even with the lead in the third, they never lifted their feet off the pedal. It led to Ferland’s empty netter and it led to Svechnikov’s amazing goal. Hopefully this is just a taste of what this team will offer us over the next week. Keep this up and this same tenacity, speed, physicality and effort will be what leads them to a first playoff spot in a decade.

Final. 0. 92. 4. 109

As perfect as this game was, there is always room to grow. In this case, it’s still the ailing power play which took the ice twice and skated away with nothing. The chances and opportunities were there. They just were not capitalized on. Zone entries still looked awful, and the situational awareness needs serious improvement as the Canes ended up on the wrong side of an odd-man shorthanded rush several times. Luckily Slavin, Pesce or McElhinney came up big each and every time, and our Carolina Hurricanes came away with a vital win on a night when all the team’s rivals also won.

Next. Three potential trades with the Oilers. dark

Question for CC Readers: 

Has Curtis McElhinney earned more starts on this road trip? Or are we wary of another game like the one he had against the Rangers?