Raleigh, NC — The Carolina Hurricanes played one of their best, and one of their most complete, team games of the season in a thundering 5-0 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Tuesday, January 26, 2016.
Canes Defeat Blackhawks 5-0
Eddie Lack got his second shutout of the season (the first at home), and Riley Nash led the Canes’ scoring with two goals. It’s not that the Hawks played that badly, it was more that the Canes played well in every aspect of the game – from the first drop of the puck to the final buzzer.
Skinner Scores Game Winner in Minutes
Before many of the fans were in their seats, Jeff Skinner scored for his leading 18th goal of the season. Most of the work leading to the goal was completed by Justin Faulk and Elias Lindholm. With Lindy taking a shot with Skinny, and with Jay McClement camped on Corey Crawford’s doorstep, both swiped at the loose puck. Initially, McClement was awarded the goal, but, after video review, it was determined that Skinny got the wood on the puck for the tally.
Just over the 13 minute mark, Jaccob Slavin took a shot from the left point that, based on where it was headed, may be better described as a slap pass. Nasher was tied up on the south side of the face-off perimeter and, somehow, not only got the puck to hit the shaft of his stick but angled the puck directly into the net, fooling Crawford for a 2-0 lead while severely silencing the previously loud Hawks fans in attendance. A little over two minutes later, a former Hawk got some sweet satisfaction as he quickly carried the puck along the left wing with just a defender between him and John-Michael Liles, who joined the rush.
Steeger waited patiently and then sent a saucer pass to Liles, settling the puck on his tape and sending one, increasing the lead to 3-0. The Canes ended the period, out-shooting the Hawks 16-4 with a balanced attack as 12 players had at least one shot on net.
Fourth Line Rules
Not surprisingly, Scott Darling stared in goal for the Hawks in the second. The Canes continued the barrage of shots and were very tight on defense. The young defensive corps of the Canes are fast, aggressive on the puck and all have impressive poke checking capabilities. With Phil Di Giuseppe in the box for holding, the Hawks had difficulty even crossing the Canes’ blue line, as the defense was like a wall. About a minute after the Canes were back at full strength, the all-beef line of Jordan Staal, Andrej Nestrasil and Joakim Nordstrom were again on the ice against the Hawks’ top line. Not only did they do a great job keeping the Hawks checked well, but most of the game was in the Hawks’ end.
Staal and Nestrasil worked hard behind the goal, digging and winning the puck. Staal eventually got the puck to Nordstrom in the slot, and Nordstrom initially tried a turnaround shot but was bumped. He regained his balance, still controlling the puck, then finished the turnaround move, sending a wrister high glove side for a commanding 4-0 lead.
Less than a minute and a half later, Skinny was doing his ballerina moves behind the net with the puck, then sent a pass to Nasher, who was cemented off the right slot area. Nasher intentionally planted a one-timer off Darling’s left shoulder for a bank shot into the goal for the final Canes goal.
Canes Defense is Solid
The Canes did not go into a defensive shell in the third while thwarting every Blackhawk threat. No team likes to get shut out, especially one to stew on for a week. The NHL is now officially on the All Star break, so the Hawks were trying everything they could to get at least one score. Rookie Noah Hanifin took two penalties on consecutive shifts, giving the Hawks a great opportunity to cash in, but the entire team pitched in and salvaged Lack’s shutout.
While no penalty is usually a good thing, he’s a rookie and will make mistakes, and it’s better to have these types of penalties in a 5-0 game than in a tie game or in one that was close either way. The trade deadline in February 29, 2016, and, the way the Canes are playing, GM Ron Francis will have some difficult decisions.
First and foremost – be a buyer or seller. All the press is about Eric Staal’s contract, and, while that is important and crucial, the Canes have something like 19 players who will be free agents after this season, so expect something to happen. The next four weeks will be interesting and can be a signal as to what to expect in the June draft and next season.
Next Home Game
The next home game isn’t for a couple of weeks – it’ll be Friday, February 12, 2016. See you then!