Hakanpaa plays hero in Hurricanes’ 3-1 win

Hurricanes defenseman Jani Hakanpaa reacts following his game-winning goal Saturday against the Predators during Carolina’s 3-1 win at PNC Arena. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Jani Hakanpaa, in his second game with the Hurricanes, scored the game-winning goal in the third period to give Carolina a 3-1 win Saturday over the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena.

Jaccob Slavin and Andrei Svechnikov also scored for the Hurricanes, and Alex Nedeljkovic made 27 saves to improve to 10-4-2 on the season and push his goals-against average under 2.00.

Three Thoughts

1. The Hurricanes had their most dominant period of the season in the first, unloading 24 shots on goal and scoring once, Slavin’s goal from the slot with 1:42 left in the frame. It should have been more, as Carolina was credited with 28 scoring chances — including 17 high-danger chances — in the opening 20 minutes, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour is fond of talking about “the way it’s supposed to look” when his team is dialed in and playing its system. The opening period was just that.

“Pretty good. It’s probably one of the best periods I’ve seen ever, to be honest with you,” he said. “We were good. We were on it with everything we were doing. It was the way it was supposed to look, and we probably should have had a few more. But it was nice to get one, at least.”

It was also an introduction for Hakanpaa to what the Hurricanes can do.

“The togetherness these guys have in here in the locker room, that shows up on the ice like that,” he said. “So for me, I’m just trying to soak it all in, enjoy it and work as hard as all the other guys, help the guy next to me to make his life a little easier out there.”

2. After a two-game hiccup against the Red Wings, the Hurricanes look like they’re back.

Carolina finished with 48 shots on goal and overcame a lack of finish — and some nice goaltending by Nashville’s Juuse Saros — to complete a two-game sweep of the Predators and improve to 6-0-0 against them this season. The Hurricanes finished their eight-game homestand at 5-2-1 and are in sole possession of first place in the Central Division with 62 points — one more than Florida and two more than Tampa Bay, and Carolina has two games and one game in hand on each team, respectively.

“I thought we had a couple games in here that weren’t great, but other than that we played pretty well, pretty solid,” Brind’Amour said. “That just goes to the group. These guys, they’re pros. They prepare, they play hard. That one game was a little iffy, but even that, we’re still in the game.”

Carolina now hits the road for three two-game sets, starting with Tuesday and Wednesday against the Lightning. That will be followed by games Thursday and Saturday against the Panthers and then a back-to-back in Dallas on April 26-27.

“We’ve got a big road trip coming up here, so we’ve got to take care of the work we’ve got to do,” Slavin said.

3. Brind’Amour said after the game the Hurricanes could have a big addition on the road trip. Teuvo Teravainen, who has played just twice since Feb. 19, is going to travel with the team and seems to be inching toward suiting up.

The 26-year-old has played in just 13 games this season, registering two goals and seven assists in a season that was first derailed by COVID-19 and then a concussion. Now there are 13 games left in the season, and Teravainen — if healthy — should have ample time to get back up to speed before the playoffs.

There’s a spot waiting for him on Carolina’s top line with Sebastian Aho and Svechnikov, and Brett Pesce has been filling in on the second power play unit that has been using two defensemen, so Teravainen should be able to slide in there.

Brock McGinn, out with an upper-body injury suffered April 4 against Dallas, will not make the trip.

Number To Know

2 — Games it took Hakanpaa to score his first goal with the Hurricanes, the game-winning tally in the third period. Comparatively, Haydn Fleury — the player traded to Anaheim for Hakanpaa — took 96 games to score his first career goal with Carolina. Hakanpaa also set a career mark with four shots on goal and scored his first game-winning goal.

They Said It

“They’re pros. Do your job.”

— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on how his team’s three goalies can handle the unorthodox rotation.

Plus

Jani Hakanpaa, Hurricanes defenseman — The newest Hurricane endeared himself to teammates with his physical play in his first game. The encore? How about his second career goal.

Off a third-period faceoff win by Vincent Trocheck, Hakanpaa fired a quick wrist shot that beat Saros (45 saves) with just over 11 minutes left in the game for the game-winning goal.

“We were going into the faceoff, and with all these plays these guys run on the draw, I’ve got to double-check what we’re about to do every time,” Hakanpaa said. “(Trocheck) just told me, ‘Hey, it’s coming your way. Just shoot it.’ He put it on a silver platter for me. I just tried to put it on net, and luckily it went in.”

The big goal can also serve as the ultimate icebreaker for the newcomer, his coach added.

“It was nice to see him get that,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, it was a big goal. And that’s the best way to feel part of a group, for sure, when you can contribute like that. It came at a great time for us.”

Minus

Jake Bean, Hurricanes defenseman — Bean was penalized for the second straight game — again for cross-checking — and it was his turnover that led to Nashville’s only goal.

With the Hurricanes up 1-0 near the game’s midway point, Bean attempted to clear the puck out of the Carolina zone. But his backhand, rather than going off the boards or to right wing Martin Necas, was stolen by Predators captain Roman Josi. Josi maneuvered away from Jesper Fast, spun and fired a shot top-shelf to tie the game at 11:36 of the second.