Hockey can be an unpredictable game and this was exemplified in the Hurricanes thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens. For 40 minutes, the Hurricanes looked completely lifeless, uninspired and on their way to a sixth straight loss. Despite numerous power plays and Montreal's best attempts to get Carolina back into the game, the Canes found themselves down 3-0 at the second intermission and were getting dominated in all phases. They were losing basically every single race to the puck and their power play had already been blanked on eight attempts. The only area where they had advantage over Montreal was on the shot count but even that was boosted from their high number of power plays.
Then something clicked when the Canes took the ice for the third period. They were already on a power play and Jeff Skinner finally made Montreal pay by scoring on a great individual effort. Quickly benefiting from yet another penalty, the Canes were able to score again courtesy of Mr. Skinner and all of the sudden, we had a competitive game on our hands. Whether it was the power plays or Montreal getting worn down from playing so much in their own end, Carolina looked like a completely different team in the third period and performed an onslaught on Montreal goaltender Carey Price. It paid off quickly for them, as Eric Staal cashed in on a rebound in front of the net to tied the game early in the third period. They continued this assault and took the lead courtesy of a goal from Manny Malhotra after a great, cycling shift from the fourth line.
That alone would have been a great story but the drama didn't stop there. With so many penalties called against Montreal, they were bound to get a late man-advantage opportunity sometime and this is exactly what happened late in the third period when Tuomo Ruutu was whistled for interference. Montreal made quick work of their power play with PK Subban scoring on a bomb from the blue line to tie the game. After that, Montreal began to control the play and had a chance to put the Canes away late after getting a four-minute power play thanks to Eric Staal taking a boarding penalty and arguing with the official afterward.
With the way things have been going for the Canes lately, it would have been appropriate for Montreal to end the game here and spoil the Canes comeback effort but Carolina had other plans in mind. Not only did the Canes kill off the double-minor, they also did not allow the Canadiens to take one shot on goal during this sequence and finished it off in overtime with Alex Semin scoring his fifth goal of the season.
Some might chalk this win up to shooting regression because the Hurricanes were simply creating too much offense to go unrewarded, but the reality is that Montreal handed this game to Montreal. Despite trailing in shots, they had full control of this game through 40 minutes and allowed Carolina back into the game by taking so many penalties. It took awhile for the Hurricanes to finally capitalize, but they were still playing a lot in their own end and looked very tired by the third period. The fact that Michel Therrien had to work with a shortened bench from all the special teams play didn't help matters. Carolina spent the majority of the second period in Montreal's end and it eventually took its toll in the third.
Even after that, the Habs had a chance to take control of this game after Carolina's two (technically three) third period penalties) and couldn't put it away. That gave the Hurricanes some more breathing room and they eventually got the job done in OT. This was a huge win for the team and hopefully the start of something good in Raleigh. We've seen Carolina fold in close games like this, so getting a win out of this one might install some confidence in them going forward. Let's just hope the game plan differs from what we saw last night.
Fenwick Timeline from Extra Skater
Carolina got off to probably the worst start imaginable even if the stats don't' show it. They gave up a goal in the first two minutes thanks to some lackadaisical play in their own zone and allowed Montreal to just take it to them for the rest of the period. Even when they had a power play, Carolina didn't have much going and surrendered two shorthanded chances to the Canadiens. They were lucky that it was only 2-0 at the end of the period because it could have been a whole lot worse with how terrible they looked.
The second period was slightly better, but that was only because Montreal had to kill three penalties and played a collapsing defense at even strength. It was an effective strategy because the Canes didn't create much offense in that period, but they eventually broke through in the third. The graph above really does a great job of illustrating Carolina's offensive outburst. Things settled down towards the end, but the damage was done and Carolina did a great job of shutting down Montreal's offense when it mattered the most. So, yes Carolina worked hard to get back into this game but the Habs kind of dug their own grave here.
Montreal scored two goals in the first period and was on the penalty kill for virtually 1/3 of the game...so they predictably ended up trailing in scoring chances as a result. Therrien sitting back after getting a 2-0 lead contributed to this too. That said, Carolina didn't get a massive advantage in chances until the third period when they seemed to capture lightning in a bottle. They were getting plenty of shots on Carey Price before then but it wasn't until the third period when they really forced to make him work and created a sustained attack in the Montreal zone. Carolina isn't going to win a lot of games by saving all of their offense for the third period but better late than never, I suppose.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Hurricanes On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Eric Staal, Nathan Gerbe, Alex Semin & Manny Malhotra +3
Worst EV Forward: Drayson Bowman -2
Best EV Defenseman: Ron Hainsey +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk -3
Jeff Skinner was, once again, the catalyst for the Hurricanes offense and he did most of his work on the power play with those two goals. He also got the primary marker on Eric Staal's game-tying goal by making a key centering pass. The Hurricanes have lacked someone who can take over the game and for those five minutes, Skinner showed the ability to do that and pulled the Hurricanes out of a huge hole in the third period.
Staal also had a solid game offensively and was the Hurricanes best forward in terms of being able to tilt the ice in the team's favor. His overall game, however, was a little mixed. He lost a puck battle behind the net on the first goal and put the Hurricanes in a bad situation late in the third period by taking a double-minor. Granted, I don't blame him for voicing his displeasure with the call since the refs missed a few things on both sides but still, he should have shown more composure and the Canes are lucky that this didn't hurt them. That said, he did his job in terms of producing offense, as his line with Semin & Skinner performed a shooting gallery on the Habs in the third period.
Speaking of Semin, it was really nice to see him finally get a goal because he has been overdue for while. He was doing just about everything in his power to beat Price yesterday and looked very frustrated and hesitant with the puck, which didn't lead to anything. Semin also missed the net quite a few times and that has been a theme for him this year. Still, it seemed like he was due for a bounce with how much offense he was creating and he finally got one to end the game, beating Price five-hole with a quick turn-around shot.
The other goal scorer, Manny Malhotra, had a very solid game along with linemates Zach Boychuk and Radek Dvorak. These three were the one good thing the Canes had going in the first period, as they were the only line that was sustaining a forecheck and keeping play in the offensive zone. Boychuk actually looked very impressive and he actually doesn't look terribly out of place in a fourth line role. Muller actually using the fourth line instead of throwing them out there for 4-5 minutes and hoping they don't get destroyed.
An underrated play on the game-winning goal was made by Ron Hainsey, who made a great pass across the ice to set-up Semin. Hainsey's coming off a couple of rough games but he returned to his usual solid self last night, doing a fantastic job of keeping the play in front of him. Bellemore was also solid. Unfortunately, the top pairing had a rough night and Sekera did not look good on the second Pacioretty goal at all. Sekera still had two points and made a great pass to Skinner on his second goal but his overall game was mixed. The same can be said for the majority of the team, though.
Canadiens Individual Scoring Chances
Canadiens On-Ice Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Lars Eller & Alex Galchenyuk +2
Worst EV Forward: Tomas Plekanec -4
Best EV Defenseman: PK Subban +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Alexei Emelin -3
Montreal didn't create much offense because they spent most of the game killing penalties, but their even strength game was led by their second & third lines. Pacioretty and Eller were responsible for almost half of their total scoring chances and scored all three of their goals. I also thought Brandon Prust had a solid game with Galchenyuk & Eller.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
A good chunk of this game was played at special teams, so both coaches got away from matchups a little bit. Muller also shortened his bench with Riley Nash injured and neither Bowman or Dvorak playing much of the third period. Regardless, Staals' line won their head-to-head matchup against Plekanec and Bellemore/Hainsey did a great job against the Habs top trio, as well. The first line also managed to get to the Habs top defense pairing, which is no easy feat when how good Subban is.
5v5 Zone Entries
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The Hurricanes generated very little offense off the rush and played a ton of dump and chase last night. Yet they ended up with 40+ shots and five goals. Power plays are the reason for this and the Canes also created a decent amount of their shots off faceoffs, which doesn't happen too often with this club. There were also over 80 faceoffs between both teams, so this was a pretty weird game all things considered.
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Montreal also created little offense on the rush and even fewer off dump-ins. Although, this is because they sat back after getting a 2-0 lead and were focused on playing defense for a majority of the game.
5v5 Zone Exits
We're working with a smaller sample than usual here but overall, the Canes were really careless with the puck in their own zone, especially the forwards. Patrick Dwyer and Eric Staal had multiple turnovers and it's rare to see the former give the puck away as much as he did last night. One saving grace was that the defense was able to get the puck out of the zone swiftly, which made up for the forwards having an off-night here. Although, I'm sure some of that is skewed from fewer touches.
Subban was the only Montreal defenseman with more than 15 puck touches during 5v5 play. Also worth noting is that him and Josh Gorges were the only defense pairing who advanced the puck on more than 20% of their puck touches. Emelin also had a decent success rate but Markov's numbers brought him down a little, which is strange because he's normally an excellent puck mover.