After a three-day Christmas break, the Carolina Hurricanes were back at it Tuesday at PNC Arena, winning again, beating the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-0.
The Canes, with a strong start, took an early lead, withstood a penalty-filled second period and finished strong in securing their ninth straight win. It extended their point streak to 15 consecutive games, adding to that franchise record.
Goalie Antti Raanta, something of a surprise starter, earned his first shutout of the season and 16th of his career with 24 saves.
Canes captain Jordan Staal said he used the break to physically recover and Seth Jarvis said it was a good mental break from hockey. Other players such as Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas said they enjoyed having family in town, which was relaxing.
But refreshed or not, the first game after Christmas can be unpredictable and often ragged as players try to get back in beast mode. Some become shootouts, others are decided on mental gaffes not usually made.
Staal’s line, which could make an argument as being the Canes’ top line, produced another two goals — wingers Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook scoring. Martin Necas had the game’s first goal, scoring at 3:36 of the first.
The Canes (23-6-6) topped the Blackhawks 3-0 in Chicago in November as Pyotr Kochetkov had the shutout, and the rookie goalie seemed slated to start again Tuesday. But after the morning skate, the decision was made to start Raanta – Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour later saying Kochetkov felt “a little off” after the skate.
Nothing was off about the Canes’ game most of the first period as Carolina took a 2-0 lead and kept constant pressure on Blackhawks’ goalie Petr Mrazek.
The Canes were much sharper and had the Blackhawks on their heels, outshooting Chicago 23-7 — the most shots by Carolina in a period this year.
Necas scored his 15th by swatting a rebound past Mrazek, his former teammate and good Czech friend.
When Fast followed his third goal in the past two games, an early knockout seemed possible.The Staal line combined for 26 points during the 14-game point streak.
Mrazek, aho appeared shaky, nearly allowing another goal after fumbling the puck behind the net. The Blackhawks did a lot of chasing in the period as the Canes were quicker to pucks and moved the puck well in transition.
But an offensive-zone hooking call against the Canes’ Teuvo Teravainen with 20.8 seconds left in the first marred an otherwise dominant period. When Fast followed with a hooking call early in the second, the Blackhawks had a brief 5-on-3 power play.
The Canes killed off both penalties, then another against defenseman Calvin deHaan, but the ‘Hawks came away with extra jump they maintained through most of the second.
Martinook’s goal, his ninth, came after a fight for the puck in front of the Chicago net.
The Blackhawks (8-21-4), after an eight-game losing streak, went into the Christmas break off a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.