The All-Star Game is right around the corner, but not before the Carolina Hurricanes welcome the Arizona Coyotes to PNC Arena. The Canes are riding high after back-to-back wins on Wednesday and Thursday over the Bruins and Devils. With the Canes eyeing the Rangers at the top of the Metropolitan Divison, the Coyotes are trying to get back into the Wild Card picture out west.
The Canes rolled the same group that earned the win over the Devils on Thursday night, with Antti Raanta back between the pipes. The lone difference was the return of Pyotr Kochetkov from IR, serving as the backup. Connor Ingram got the start for the Coyotes as he looked to continue his breakout season.
The first period was the only period that felt remotely close. The Canes and Coyotes went back and forth, trying to get on the board first. Dmitry Orlov hit the post early on a deflected shot. Antti Raanta was forced to make some tough stops. Despite all their hard work to prevent it, the Canes would concede the opening goal thanks to a bad bounce and a rough line change. Raanta kicked out Dylan Guenther's initial shot, but the puck bounced off Logan Cooley and into the net to get Arizona on the board late in the period. Martin Necas nearly found the answer, but his backhand hit the post and stayed out as Arizona's 1-0 lead stood at the intermission.
After the Hurricanes killed a carry-over penalty, the ice started to shift in their favor. A 4-on-4 turned into a rare 4-on-3 power play for the Canes, and they remained red hot. Beautiful puck movement from the four men on the ice ended with Martin Necas, who drew the penalty, burying a one-timer past Connor Ingram to draw even. From there, the Canes started to swarm. They finished the period with 14 shots, but Ingram kept them out of the net to send it to the third period tied 1-1.
We often see periods when one team dominates, but "dominant" might not be a strong enough word to describe the Canes' performance in the final 20 minutes. With no game for over a week, the Canes threw the kitchen sink at Connor Ingram. The only problem is that Ingram was ready for it. However, the longer the period went, the closer it felt like the Canes were getting to the go-ahead goal. No closer were they than when Martin Necas smacked a shot off the post off a faceoff.
The power play was given a chance to work in the final minutes after Dmitry Orlov drew a trip from Logan Cooley in the defensive zone. Seth Jarvis had a few golden opportunities at the front of the net, but nothing got through. Much like the game in Boston, it felt like overtime was on the horizon. Once again, the Canes had other plans. With the final minute winding down, Orlov walked down from the point and buried a sharp-angle shot over the shoulder of Connor Ingram with 35.9 seconds remaining to put the Canes ahead for the first time. To add insult to injury, Jesper Fast scored 13 seconds later to put the game away for good as the Canes pushed their win streak to three games going into the All-Star Break.
The close final score would accurately reflect just how dominant the Canes were in this win. The final 40 minutes were all Carolina. The Canes outshot the Coyotes 32-3, scoring all three of their goals in the second and third periods. Martin Necas had another excellent game after returning from his injury. After being held scoreless against the Devils, Necas returned to the scoresheet in the second period and nearly won it in the third. Seth Jarvis finished with a game-high six shots and was the only player with a multi-point game, picking up two assists.
I can't help but feel a little bad for Connor Ingram after this game. It felt like he was the only Coyote on the ice in the third period. The Canes outshot the Coyotes 18-0 in the third, but couldn't break through the wall until the final minute. Ingram has been one of the league's best stories this season, keeping Arizona in the playoff picture. He was excellent despite the loss and easily the Coyotes' best player.
This was Dmitry Orlov's "Welcome to Carolina" moment. After being one of the biggest free agents this offseason, Orlov's transition to the Canes' style has been a slow burn. He's had some good moments and some not-so-good ones. He hadn't scored since his return to Washington and had found iron several times. This was a cool moment for him to finally get rewarded.
Orlov's game-winner spear-headed a very good night for the Canes' defensive unit. His defensive partner, Jalen Chatfield, picked up an assist on the deciding goal. Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin were excellent in their defensive end, with Burns also recording an assist on the power play. Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei combined for five shots and were a +1 each. Their collective effort made Antti Raanta's night a breeze. He only saw 11 shots, none of which came in the third period, with Arizona's lone goal coming off a tough bounce. It was an excellent night all around for the team as they entered the break on fire.
With this being the final game before the All-Star Break, the Hurricanes will be out of action for a week and a half. They'll return to the ice on February 6 at PNC Arena against the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks. They will also face the Avalanche and Devils at home during their return to action.