After another offensive outburst against the Ducks on Thursday night following a four-day break, the Hurricanes strapped up for a fight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Saturday night in Raleighwood featured two Metropolitan opponents in different spots. The Canes are trying to keep their season-high point streak going, while the Penguins are trying to work back into the playoff picture.
With Pyotr Kochetkov being placed in concussion protocol, Antti Raanta was in the net for the Hurricanes. He was excellent in the Canes' 2-1 shootout loss to the Blues in his last start and relieved Kochetkov against Anaheim, stopping all three shots he faced. Martin Necas missed his fourth straight game as the rest of the lineup remained the same. Tristan Jarry defended the net for the Penguins.
The start of this game was reminiscent of the start against Anaheim. The Canes came out firing, but Tristan Jarry was ready. He denied Sebastian Aho on a breakaway and made a phenomenal stop on Brett Pesce a little later to keep it scoreless. Antti Raanta was equally sharp on the other end.
Unlike Thursday night, the Canes didn't wait until late in the period to get on the board. After being robbed, Pesce redeemed himself with a little puck luck. Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho won a battle along the boards before the latter found Pesce. His shot hit Lars Eller's glove and surprised Tristan Jarry as the Canes jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
The good bounces kept going the Canes' way in the period. Jalen Chatfield's pass along the glass found Jordan Martinook alone in front of the net. After being denied on his initial chance, Martinook put the rebound home to score his second in as many games. The score remained 2-0 through the end of the period as the Canes went into the break feeling great about their start.
The Penguins came out of the intermission and went to work against Antti Raanta. Father Finn was prepped and ready. Pittsburgh doubled the Canes in shots in the second period, putting 16 shots on Raanta, but none of them got past him. Arguably, his biggest save to that point was a pad stop on Jake Guentzel on the power play before he was dogpiled in the crease. The Canes maintained their lead through 40 minutes on the back of their goalie.
The push from Pittsburgh continued in the third period. After Dmitry Orlov rang the crossbar on a 2-on-1, Antti Raanta flashed the leather on Sidney Crosby to make Save of the Year candidate. Unfortunately, the good times didn't last as Crosby set up Jake Guentzel for a one-timer from nearly the same spot 22 seconds later to break the shutout. The Canes had their chances to extend the lead, but with Tristan Jarry on the bench, a rebound found Bryan Rust with plenty of net to shoot at as the Penguins tied it with less than a minute left.
Despite some early-season heroics in overtime, the Canes had lost their last five games that needed more than 60 minutes to be decided, including a shootout loss to Pittsburgh before Christmas. On this night, the fates would be reversed. Brett Pesce, who scored an overtime-winner last season in Pittsburgh, whipped his second goal of the night from just outside the right dot less than two minutes into the session to earn the second point.
While I was perfectly content with winning the game in regulation, I can't fault the Canes for wanting to give the Caniacs at PNC Arena something extra special. His two goals notwithstanding, this was easily Brett Pesce's best game of the season. Defensively, he went all out to prevent everything. He threw his body in front of every puck and had a huge block in the second period on Jake Guentzel at the top of the crease to prevent the Penguins from getting on the board. Scoring two goals helps, too.
The other big performance of the night was from Antti Raanta. There were a few points during the game when it looked like Raanta was laboring, getting up slowly after some stops, but he fought through it and turned in his best start of the season. Since being recalled for Chicago after Christmas, Raanta has quietly been excellent. With Pyotr Kochetkov's immediate future in question with what appears to be a head injury, Raanta's the guy until further notice. Starts like this help ease the collective consciousness of the fanbase.
An area of this win that deserves a lot of love is the penalty kill. While the first two kills were abbreviated after the Penguins took penalties, the Canes found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 with less than two minutes left in the second period. It was only 28 seconds, but they bore down and killed off the initial penalty before getting into the intermission without allowing anything. They killed the remainder of the penalty to begin the third period, making this a crucial part of what eventually became a win.
With the homestand halfway done, the Canes will look to stay hot on Monday afternoon as the organization honors one of its best. Justin Williams will be inducted into the Hurricanes Hall of Fame before Monday's tilt with the Los Angeles Kings, a team Williams won a pair of Stanley Cups with during his career. With this expected to be an emotional day, the Canes will look to carry that emotion into a game against a struggling Los Angeles team.