The Carolina Hurricanes probably deserved a better result than they got against the New York Islanders on Thursday night. They weren’t able to capitalize on the momentum they’d created in an overtime loss, leaving a sour taste. With the Buffalo Sabres in town before heading out on a long road trip, the Canes looked to flush their tough loss to build some momentum.
Conventional wisdom would’ve led you to believe Antti Raanta would be getting the start after Pyotr Kochetkov had a tough night against New York. However, with Raanta not feeling 100%, Kochetkov would be back in the net for his fourth straight start. Eric Comrie would oppose him in the first half of a back-to-back for Buffalo.
It was clear early on that this was going to be a chippy game. Stefan Noesen and Rasmus Dahlin got into it behind the play, resulting in Noesen getting an extra two minutes in the box. The Canes were able to kill it with ease, and they took that and ran with it. Sebastian Aho broke the ice late in the first period with an absolute snipe on Eric Comrie. Jaccob Slavin’s patented flip started the play, and Seth Jarvis dropped it for Aho to let it rip. The fourth line added to the fun 70 seconds later. Martin Necas entered the zone with speed and found Jack Drury, who put his rebound into the net to make it 2-0 right before the break.
The Hurricanes came out of the intermission hungry for more. Alex Tuch took an early penalty, and Sebastian Aho made the Sabres pay on the power play with his second of the night. He clapped one past Eric Comrie from the slot to make it 3-0. The Sabres looked flat out of the gate, and the Canes were making them pay.
While it was made abundantly clear that special teams were going to be important, it was made its clearest shortly after the third goal. Andrei Svechnikov took a tough penalty in the offensive zone. Then, Sebastian Aho was given four minutes for high-sticking JJ Peterka. The referees would review it, and it was clear as day that Rasmus Dahlin lifted Aho’s stick into Peterka’s face. I must not understand the rules because the referees upheld the penalty, to the astonishment of the entire arena. This gave the Sabres some time with a two-man advantage, which the Canes killed. Then, the Canes killed the rest of Aho’s double-minor, getting a roaring ovation from the crowd.
On the heels of a phenomenal kill, the Canes ended the second period as strongly as they ended the first. Jaccob Slavin got to work again with his long flip, springing Martin Necas for a potential chance. Instead, he left the puck for Stefan Noesen, who buried it with Eric Comrie out of position. Noesen’s reaction after the play told the entire story. Teuvo Teravainen added the icing on the cake with the Canes’ second goal on the power play, finishing a beautiful pass from Andrei Svechnikov to make it 5-0 after 40 minutes.
While Buffalo looked disinterested for the rest of the night, they would get on the board early in the third to break the shutout. Casey Mittelstadt put a perfectly placed shot under the blocker of Pyotr Kochetkov to cut the deficit to four goals. The Canes would get it back a little later as Brady Skjei ripped one with the Canes short-handed to restore the five-goal lead. Kochetkov was able to pull off another diving poke check on Peyton Krebs, but Krebs stuck with the play as he fed Tyson Jost to get the Sabres another goal less than 90 seconds later. A fight between Connor Clifton and Jack Drury would end the night as the Canes cruised to a 6-2 win to start December off right.
This was complete and total domination by the Hurricanes in every aspect of the game. The Sabres didn’t stand a chance. I’m not sure if they were conserving their energy with another game tomorrow night, but they looked several steps behind the Canes the entire time. Not having Tage Thompson stings a little, but I’m not sure he could’ve saved Buffalo from this lopsided game.
The difference in the game was the Canes’ ability to win the battle on special teams. The power play connected for two goals on two chances, while the penalty kill went 5-for-5 with a short-handed goal. The power play had started to look better in the last few games, and they were finally rewarded for their hard work. Andrei Svechnikov was a key part of both goals, making two incredible passes to set up Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The penalty kill could’ve easily allowed Buffalo back in the game with the calls on Svechnikov and Aho in the second period. Instead, they buckled down and got the job done to keep the Sabres off the board.
The contributions came from all over the lineup. The defensemen combined for a goal and five assists, two of which allowed Brent Burns to hit 600 assists for his career. Burns joined Jaccob Slavin, Andrei Svechnikov, and Martin Necas with multi-assist nights, while Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen also had multi-point games. Jack Drury is officially on a goal streak with his second in as many games, one of two goals from the fourth line in the win.
To top it off, Pyotr Kochetkov had a great bounce-back performance. He probably wouldn’t have started if Antti Raanta was feeling well, but he needed this game badly. Neither goal was completely on him, plus he made some huge stops throughout the game to keep the Sabres quiet. It’s not often we see a Hurricanes’ goalie get four straight starts in the regular season under Rod Brind’Amour. To go 3-0-1 during that stretch is pretty impressive.
The Hurricanes are hitting the road for the next week and a half. They’ll spend most of the trip in Western Canada, kicking things off in Winnipeg on Monday night at an appropriate hour for us on the East Coast. After that, they’ll have a back-to-back in Alberta with the Oilers and Flames and then finish the western portion of the trip in Vancouver next Saturday. Once they get closer to home, they’ll be in Ottawa and Detroit before coming back to Raleigh to face Nashville on December 15.