RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t doing much different in the midst of a run that’s seen them win 7 of 8 games, putting a playoff spot within reach.
A 6-3 win over Nashville on Sunday afternoon saw Sebastian Aho net a hat trick and bring his total to five goals over the span of two games. Not surprisingly, Aho has been at the forefront of a goal-scoring surge that’s taken the ‘Canes to among the league’s worst in that department to near the NHL average over the course of two weeks.
Aho and his teammates say there isn’t much that’s changed about the way they’ve played this year. Many mentioned attention to detail, but that the overall style of play is still very much the same.
“I think just sticking to the game plan. We haven’t changed the way we play,” said Micheal Ferland. “We’re still shooting pucks. (Rod Brind’Amour) told us don’t change nothing, keep playing the way we’ve been playing. We’re finally getting bounces.”
“It’s tough. There was a time where, really, we’re playing really good hockey, but nothing is going your way,” Brind’Amour added. “Credit the leadership group. They’re the ones continuing pushing the message and, to be honest with you, they’re leading by their example.”
A portion of the scoring uptick can be credited to those bounces. One of Carolina’s two power-play goals Sunday saw an Aho one-timer pinball through the slot, off Ferland and Williams, before banking off a Predator skate and behind Pekka Rinne.
That goal made it 5-1 just past the midway point of the game. There was a good chunk of hockey still to play, but the ‘Canes came out on the right end of a crucial stretch that eventually decided the game.
Colton Sissons scored less than three minutes into the second half to cut Carolina’s lead to 2-1. The Hurricane power play stole momentum right back 20 seconds later when Ferland dished a no-look pass from the slot to Aho, who was wide open on the right wing.
The ‘Canes took a penalty less than two minutes after that. They killed it off, as they did all five of Nashville’s power plays, and ended up ahead 5-1 less than four minutes later thanks to Lucas Wallmark beating Rinne on a 2-on-1 rush and the aforementioned bounce that was credited to Williams.
“I think that was probably one of our better 60-minute efforts all year. We had a couple of lapses, but they were more individual mistakes than team breakdowns,” Brind’Amour said.
The game was very much decided in that stretch of seven minutes and 23 seconds in the second period.
“That’s what has to happen. There’s always going to be mistakes,” Brind’Amour said. “We got the one breakdown that was not very good, then we scored I don’t know how many seconds later. That’s always huge, those next shifts.”
In weeks or months past, that may have been the portion of the game where the Hurricanes would let it escape them. That wasn’t the case Sunday, and largely hasn’t been in the New Year. Three of their last seven wins have been one-goal games.
Carolina looks to continue creeping up on a playoff spot Tuesday in New York against the Rangers. The ‘Canes are four points back of Montreal for the last wild card spot and have a game in hand.