Hurricanes survive back-and-fourth 3rd period, beat Stars in shootout

Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck scores the deciding goal past Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin in a 4-3 shootout win Sunday in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

The Hurricanes’ third period lead was turned into a one-goal deficit, but Carolina rallied to tie the Dallas Stars and beat them for the second consecutive night, winning 4-3 in a shootout Sunday at PNC Arena.

Jordan Staal, Brock McGinn and Nino Niederreiter scored for the Hurricanes, Dougie Hamilton and Vincent Trocheck netted shootout goals, and James Reimer improved to 3-0-0 on the young season.

Carolina improved to 5-1-0 on the season, climbing over Dallas and Tampa Bay to move into third place in the Central Division. Second-place Columbus has 11 points but has played four more games than the Hurricanes, while Florida is 5-0-1 but has played four of its six games against Chicago and Detroit.

Three thoughts

1. Carolina looked like it was on the ropes after its 2-1 lead entering the third period became a 3-2 deficit when Stars captain Jamie Benn scored with eight minutes left. But the Hurricanes continue to find a way.

First, Niederreiter — snakebitten most of last season — tied the game at 17:25 of the third  with a rocket from the left wing that beat Stars goalie Anton Khudobin over his left shoulder.

“I didn’t have a lot of speed going, so I knew I had to take that shot and risk it and go far side high,” Niederreiter said. “Glad it went in.”

Then in overtime, Hamilton went to the box and Carolina killed off Dallas’ two minutes of 4-on-3 time.

“That was so huge, that whole kill,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

The Hurricanes closed out the Stars in the shootout, with Hamilton and Trocheck scoring, and Reimer (26 saves) stopping two of three Dallas shooters.

2. The Hurricanes continue to win games with their special teams. Carolina scored just 1:58 into the game when Staal redirected a Hamilton point shot past Khudobin for a 1-0 lead.

With the game later tied 1-1 and Dallas on the power play, McGinn came up the left wing and blasted a slap shot through Khudobin’s five hole for Carolina’s first shorthanded goal of the season.

The Hurricanes have just two 5-on-5 goals in the past three games, but those goals will come — especially with the return of the remaining players in the COVID-19 protocol — if Carolina continues to carry play, and the dominant special teams play makes them all the more dangerous.

“That seems to be kind of the game now,” Brind’Amour said. “Special teams are just so important because it’s just so hard to score 5-on-5. Everybody’s dialed in on how to defend, which is why I get so worked up on penalties that are iffy because it’s just a game-changer.”

The pendulum will swing the other way at some point this season, but for now, the special teams are leading the way — especially the penalty kill.

“It takes an incredible commitment to play that way on the PK,” Reimer said, “and our guys are just, to a man, buying in and sacrificing.”

3. Every hockey coach wants their team to “play a 60-minute game,” but another frequently used coachspeak cliche is making sure the group “starts on time.”

The Hurricanes have had no issues doing that since returning from their COVID-19 pause. Carolina outshot Dallas 12-3 in the first period on Sunday after having a 6-2 edge in Saturday’s win. The same was true of Thursday’s victory over Tampa Bay — Carolina dominated the first period with a 15-7 shots on goal edge.

It’s also paying off in the goal columns, where Carolina has outscored its opponents by a combined 3-0 in the first period of the last three games. The Hurricanes have not allowed a first period goal through six games this season — every other team in the league has allowed at least one goal in each of the three regulation periods.

Number To Know

7:36, 7:34 — The amount of shorthanded ice time for Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei, respectively, as Carolina went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. That included both players playing the full two minutes of a penalty at 4-on-3 in overtime after Hamilton was called for tripping. Pesce totaled 24:57 of ice time while Skjei was tops on the Hurricanes for the second straight night, logging 25:50 Sunday after playing 22:53 the night before.

They Said It

“They’ve got some iron lungs, those two.”

— Staal on Pesce and Skjei playing the full two minutes shorthanded during Carolina’s 4-on-3 kill in overtime.

Plus

Jordan Staal, Hurricanes center — Staal now has points in all three games since returning from the COVID-19 protocol list, and he even had to shake off a trip to the quiet room Sunday after a hit from behind by Benn.

“I didn’t love the hit,” Staal said. “I wasn’t sure where the puck was and I got a good one.”

At that point, he had already scored with the deflection of Hamilton’s shot in the first on the power play, where he’s filling in because of Teuvo Teravainen’s absence. After he returned to the bench once he was cleared following concussion testing, he added an assist on McGinn’s shorthanded goal. Throw in that he was also a key part of the overtime penalty kill — and played 4:42 total shorthanded despite missing some time in the locker room — and it was a big night for No. 11.

Carolina knows Staal is not going to be the player who scored 29 goals as a rookie with the Penguins in 2006-07 — that’s why the team went out and got Trocheck — but they believe he has more points in him than the combined 55 he’s had in 118 games over the last two seasons. If Staal can get back to being a 40-point player (or about 30 in this shortened season), it will go a long way toward making the Hurricanes the team to beat in the Central.

Minus

Jake Bean, Hurricanes defenseman — It’s been trial by fire for Bean, who hadn’t played since the AHL season was shut down last year and is now trying to hold his own against last year’s two Stanley Cup finalists. For the most part, the rookie has been fine, but his blown coverage on Andrew Cogliano’s tying goal in the third period was a glaring mistake.

Carolina has the luxury of not having to play Bean every night, and every mistake will be a learning experience for a player that has seemingly been around forever but now has just five games of NHL experience under his belt.