Sustaining an undefeated season is one of the toughest things to do in sports, especially when you have an 82-game season like professional hockey. When I played franchise mode on one of the past EA Sports NHL games, I somehow won all 82 games. I went undefeated all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Los Angeles Kings, where I played (and beat) the Carolina Hurricanes. Since I had been winning so much, I decided to simulate a game. I lost that game, and I wish I had played it now.
The 2019-2020 Carolina Hurricanes were doing their best to sustain an undefeated season, as they were 5-0-0 entering this past Saturday’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but ultimately, they fell by a score of 3-2. I will get to that game momentarily, but first, I want to tell you a little about the game against the New York Islanders on Friday, October 11 that got the Canes to 5-0.
The Isles, as hockey fans like to call them. A team the Canes swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year, making then-Isles goalie Robin Lehner, who had arguably been the best goalie that postseason, struggle to make saves. You think the Isles were hungry coming into last Friday’s game against the Canes?
Most definitely. The 2019-2020 Isles are without Lehner, and they turned to former San Jose Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss for the start in net. Greiss had won his previous start, making 35 saves en route to a victory against the Winnipeg Jets (formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers). Greiss had another good game against the Canes, making 33 saves. The Canes, however, were able to score four goals on Greiss.
The Canes got the scoring started early, as Teuvo “Turbo” Teravainen took a pass from Dougie Hamilton and put it right past the right pad of Greiss on a two-on-one rush at 3:57. Minutes later, Isles center Brock Nelson scored a goal almost the exact same way that Turbo did.
To break the tie, Brett Pesce took a pass from winger Nino Neiderreiter and put it past Greiss at the 14:42 mark of the first period. 2-1 Canes. That would be all the scoring for the opening 20 minutes.
In the second period, the Isles would tie it right back up. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who was wide open at the top of the circle, wound up for a slap shot and hammered it home at 1:53 to tie the game at two apiece. The Isles would look to build momentum off this goal, but the Canes would have something to say about that.
Erik Haula would dance around a couple of Islanders defenders to score at the 15:09 mark of the second period. 3-2 Canes. The Canes prevented the puck from going out of the Islanders’ zone a few minutes later, and Dougie Hamilton was able to convert on a slapshot for a 4-2 Canes lead.
As is common when your team is down late in games, the Isles pulled Greiss for an extra attacker. Andrei Svechnikov, the Canes’ promising second-year player, broke away from the Isles’ defense to make the score 5-2 on an empty-netter. The Canes would hang on to win this game.
Enter the Blue Jackets. The Canes are coming off a big win the night before, and you can imagine they might be a little tired. It looked that way early on, as the Blue Jackets struck first on a one-timer goal from defenseman Markus Nutivaara (10:17 mark of the first period).
The Canes, however, have been known for their ability to rally from a deficit (just look at last year’s postseason). Erik Haula, arguably the Canes’ most productive goal-scorer so far this season, converted on a one-timer from teammates Ryan Dzingel and Martin Necas, putting the puck past Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo at the 10:44 mark of the first period. Dougie Hamilton continued the momentum in the second period, scoring a goal on an impressive snapshot that just snuck over Korpisalo’s right shoulder at the 2:51 mark of the second period. 2-1 Canes. First Canes lead of the night.
As this game had previously gone, the Blue Jackets would come back, and unfortunately, this time it would be for good. Were the Canes still celebrating their previous goal? No, but the Blue Jackets marched right down the ice, scoring on a goal at the 3:08 mark from winger Oliver Bjorkstrand. That would be all the scoring for the second period, but the Blue Jackets would score early in the third, as center Pierre-Luc Dubois converted on a breakaway opportunity at the 1:15 mark of the third period, putting a backhand past James Reimer. This would be all the scoring, as the Canes would lose their first game of the season.
An impressive undefeated start for the Canes, as 5-0-0 was their best start in franchise history. The Canes will look to continue their momentum on a three-game road trip, as they play the Kings tonight, the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night, and the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
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