‘Don’t leave early. It’s like a movie.’ Hurricanes save their very best for the very last
Look, no one’s pointing fingers, but on the bench and on the ice, they saw the aisles start to fill with people with a minute and a half to go. They could see their own names on the backs of all the jerseys as their wearers headed up and out.
The game might have been over in the minds of the fans on their way out of PNC Arena, but it was not over on the ice. The Carolina Hurricanes would prove that point, very shortly, beyond any doubt.
And the traffic-beaters and those of little faith will get no sympathy from Martin Necas.
“Don’t leave early,” Necas said. “It’s like a movie.”
Down two goals with 112 seconds to play, only a few minutes of real time later the Hurricanes were celebrating a 5-4 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks. Anyone who left after the Sharks’ empty-net goal that made it 4-2 missed both of Necas’ goals, the overtime-forcer with 12 seconds to go and the winner 67 seconds later.
“Hopefully they didn’t get out of the building, because I saw a mass exodus there,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then all of a sudden it was a great finish.”
Then again, could you really blame anyone for having seen enough? The Hurricanes slept through the first period, as listless a period as they played all season, and were only marginally better in the second. They took the lead to start the third on an Aho power-play goal, failed to convert three point-blank chances and gave it all back.
They were down a goal when they pulled Antti Raanta with two minutes to go, gave up an empty-netter 10 seconds later, and the stands began to empty. It was 4-2. It was over.
Aho scored almost immediately to make it a one-goal game again. Raanta headed back toward the bench. And in the final seconds, Jordan Staal won a faceoff before an Andrei Svechnikov shot caromed out of the crease right to Necas at the bottom of the left circle. He zinged a one-timer past James Reimer with 11.5 seconds to go. There must have been a lot of shocked faces and unhappy kids in the parking lots.
“You could see there was that little eye of the tiger at the end,” Raanta said.
The rest almost goes without saying at this point. Overtime. Necas. Two games in a row.
This might have been good enough to salvage an overtime win over the Sharks, but it won’t cut it against the Boston Bruins on Sunday. The last time the Hurricanes played the Bruins, the game before was a listless 4-0 loss to another Western Conference also-ran, the Arizona Coyotes, also coming off an overtime road game. This was better than that, at least.
At some point, someone other than Aho and Necas, among the Hurricanes’ stars, is going to have to start scoring. Seth Jarvis has one goal in 18 games. Svechnikov none in 12, although he had a pair of assists Friday. Teuvo Teravainen one in 12. For the moment, though, Aho and Necas have done enough.
Aho has seven goals in five games and 14 points in the past nine. Necas, including his back-to-back overtime winners, has four goals in the past four. Not only are they carrying the Hurricanes offensively, they’re double-handedly turning losses into wins, and they only needed 172 seconds to do it Friday after the Hurricanes mucked about for most of the other 58 minutes.
“I would be nice to win one game without overtime,” Raanta joked, but Necas, who’s making a habit of popping up in the right places at the right time, had a counterpoint.
“We try to make it interesting. Isn’t it more fun?” Necas asked. And he just might be right.
Never miss a Luke DeCock column. Sign up at tinyurl.com/lukeslatest to have them delivered directly to your email inbox as soon as they post.
Luke DeCock’s Latest: Never miss a column on the Canes, ACC or other Triangle sports