In the final game of a six-game homestand, the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed the Minnesota Wild for their first meeting of the season. The Canes are coming off a 4-2 win over the Red Wings on Friday night after their second long break of January. The Wild are going through a bit of a rough patch, winning just three of their last 12 games.
The Hurricanes announced before warm-ups that Andrei Svechnikov would miss the game, meaning Brendan Lemieux would be back in the lineup. Spencer Martin would be dressed for his first game as a Hurricane, backing up Antti Raanta. The Wild countered with Filip Gustavsson after Marc-Andre Fleury left their win against Florida early following a collision with William Lockwood.
The Hurricanes dominated the beginning of the game. Filip Gustavsson was under siege, but wasn't allowing anything. Minnesota didn't record their first shot until 11 minutes into the contest. The Canes broke the ice late in the period on a beautiful passing play featuring the Drury line. After Dmitry Orlov kept the puck in the zone, all three forwards touched the puck, ending with Martin Necas scoring in his second straight game. The lead was short-lived as Kirill Kaprizov tipped one home to even it up right before the intermission.
The Wild took control of the game in the second period. After killing a Canes' power play and failing on their own, Kirill Kaprizov spun and fired a shot past a screened Antti Raanta to put the Wild ahead. Each side earned one more chance with the man advantage, coming up empty. Raanta faced a late onslaught from the Wild, but the game went into the break with the Wild remaining in front 2-1.
The Canes pushed to even the game, nearly doing so early in the third period when Jordan Staal hit the crossbar. Minnesota caught some iron, too, as Marco Rossi hit the post trying to extend their lead. The tying goal came off the stick of Michael Bunting, who snapped one from the left dot to knot things up. Unfortunately, they wouldn't be tied for long. Joel Eriksson Ek put home a rebound that leaked through Antti Raanta 1:15 later to establish the lead again. The Wild would put the game away for good with a pair of empty-netters, as Kirill Kaprizov finished his hat trick, and Jacob Middleton left no doubt to give the Wild a 5-2 win.
This was one of those games that likely frustrated a lot of fans. The Canes held a considerable edge in shots the entire game but couldn't put much past Filip Gustavsson. They held an 18-3 advantage in shots after the first period, but Minnesota had managed to score on one of their three shots. Through 40 minutes, it was 31-10, yet the Wild were in the lead. I know it's easy to pile on Antti Raanta for not making stops, but there wasn't much he could do on the first two Kaprizov goals, and the third goal was the result of Minnesota working hard down low.
The big disappointment of the game was the Hurricanes' power play. They went 0-for-4, marking the third time in the last four games that they didn't score. It's also the second time in the last few games that they've had a chance to score late in the game with the man advantage and couldn't find anything. While they didn't have Andrei Svechnikov, it's still not a good sign to see the power play failing to convert. Even if it isn't converting at the rate they had been, you expect a little more from the group.
One of the big changes made before the game was swapping Jack Drury and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Drury is now the team's 2C, a well-earned promotion for a player who has been on fire with Stefan Noesen. They combined for another goal in this one, factoring in on the goal from Martin Necas in the first period. Drury's turnaround this season has been one of the biggest surprises after a very slow start.
The Hurricanes will play one of their toughest back-to-backs of the season this coming week. They'll begin on the road in Boston on Wednesday night on national television. Then, they'll return home to face the New Jersey Devils for the first time since eliminating them in the postseason. On the heels of a successful homestand, the Canes need to finish strong before the All-Star Break, playing this back-to-back before hosting Arizona next Saturday to go into the break.