A Second-Period Surge Helps the Hurricanes Punch Their Ticket to the Postseason

Aho and Jarvis record three points each, Guentzel adds two helpers, and Andersen picks up a shutout to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight season.

Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes
Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

The Hurricanes' first attempt to clinch a playoff berth passed them by in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins on Tuesday night. The good news is that they'd have another chance to do it on Thursday as they welcomed the Detroit Red Wings to town. Needing a win of any kind or a point and some help, the Canes had their work cut out for them.

It was Frederik Andersen's turn in the ongoing goalie rotation for the Hurricanes, coming off a great performance against Toronto on Sunday. Jesper Fast missed his fifth straight game as the rest of the lineup remained the same for the Canes. James Reimer took the start for the Red Wings, hoping to put together something against his former team like Alex Nedeljkovic did on Tuesday for Pittsburgh. Detroit announced right before the game that Austin Czarnik and Patrick Kane would miss the game with an illness.

The beginning of this game was very similar to Tuesday's in Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes were in complete control, outshooting the Red Wings by quite a bit. However, the goals weren't coming. James Reimer wasn't forced to make many tough stops, though he was forced to make a lot of them. On the other end, Frederik Andersen didn't face his first shot until just about 12 minutes into the game. The Canes finished the period with a 15-3 lead in shots, but no goals were on the scoreboard.

After four periods of frustration, the Hurricanes let it all out in the second period, courtesy of their top line. It began in the defensive zone with Jaccob Slavin making a heads-up spike in front of the net to spring a 3-on-2. All three forwards on the line touched the puck on the play, which ended with Jake Guentzel feeding Sebastian Aho to get the Canes on the board.

Less than a minute later, the trio would strike again. After Jake Guentzel drew a penalty nine seconds after the goal, he'd help Sebastian Aho enter the zone with speed. Aho found a wide-open Seth Jarvis as he snuck behind the Detroit defense. He got a little help from a defensive stick to snap one past James Reimer to make it 2-0 just 57 seconds apart.

The top line didn't get to have all of the fun. The newly-constructed Kuznetsov line added to the lead. Jordan Martinook made an incredibly smart play as Evgeny Kuznetsov tagged up before entering the zone. He dropped the puck back to Kuznetsov, who played it through a defender's legs to set up Martin Necas for a one-timer in the left dot. Necas didn't get all of it, but James Reimer was so far out of position that it didn't matter.

The final goal of the onslaught was a bit of a sad one. The sea seemed to part for Brady Skjei as he carried the puck from the defensive zone. While his initial shot was stopped, Skjei won the race to the rebound, getting his second shot to squeak through the goalie and over the line to make it 4-0. While he didn't get much help, that's one James Reimer has to have. The four-goal lead would survive a late power play for Detroit as the Canes were just 20 minutes away from completing the first step.

The Red Wings made a solid push in the third period, but Frederik Andersen remained at the top of his game. The Hurricanes' defense did what they could to make Detroit's chances easier to stop, allowing Andersen to make 12 stops down the stretch, accounting for half of his total for the night. The final horn would sound without much of an issue as the Hurricanes put the "X" next to their name in the standings with a 4-0 win.

While it's fun to throw a little drama into a postseason clincher, it's equally as rewarding to completely outwork your opponent to do it. Even before the Hurricanes busted it open in the second period, it felt like this was going to be the night. This was reminiscent of their wins over New York and Philadelphia recently as they beat teams in desperate need of points, like this Detroit team was.

At the center of it was the hottest line in the league. They combined for eight points, with Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis reaching some important milestones. Jarvis hit 60 points for the first time in his career as he continues his career season. Aho recorded his 250th goal and 300th assist on the first two goals of the night. With his second assist, he tied his career high in points with 83. Not to be lost in all of this was another multi-assist night from Jake Guentzel. The chemistry of this line is off the charts right now.

Even though the rest of the team didn't contribute on the scoresheet much, there wasn't a single player who I thought had a bad night. I thought this was an especially encouraging night for Andrei Svechnikov, who'd been struggling to find it recently. Playing with Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen, he finished with five shots, tying Martin Necas for the most in the game. Frederik Andersen rounded it out by coming up with the saves when the group needed it. He only faced 24 shots, but he stopped them all. I'm not sure the Hurricanes could've written a tighter script for their return to the postseason.

With plenty of work left to do, the Hurricanes will finish March with a meeting in Montreal with the Canadiens on Saturday night. It'll be their last game for four days, not playing again until a Thursday-Friday back-to-back at home against the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. The President's Trophy and the Metropolitan Division crown are still on the table for the Canes to capture.