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Svechnikov Makes Presence Known in Game 1

Canes rookie tallies twice in dominant third period

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

WASHINGTON - In late April 2018, fortuitous bounces from four lottery balls scored the Carolina Hurricanes a momentous off-ice victory, as the team jumped from 11th in the draft order to two.

Nearly a year later, the player the Hurricanes selected with that second overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft is rising to the occasion on the ice, nearly helping his team erase a three-goal deficit in Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Andrei Svechnikov, just the fourth teenager in franchise history to play in the postseason, was admittedly somewhat nervous in the lead-up to the opening of the first round.

"Maybe, kind of," he smiled. "A little bit."

His performance, especially in the third period, was anything but.

Down 3-0 in the final frame of regulation, Svechnikov scored two goals to bring his team within a goal of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

As the stage gets bigger and the lights get brighter, Svechnikov continues to revel in the moment.

"I expect it. It's not shocking to me. He's a real good player, and he's finding his way. He hasn't even realized how good he can be," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said after practice on Friday. "The moment, the playoffs, that doesn't even affect him. I don't think he's aware of how big a moment it is. That's really helpful for a young guy. He's just going out and playing."

"There's no pressure on him. Just go do it. Go enjoy it. Go have fun. That's what this time of year is about," Justin Williams said. "We're going to need even more from him if we're going to advance."

At just 19 years and 16 days old, Svechnikov became the ninth-youngest player in NHL history to score two goals in a playoff game. On Oct. 7, 2018, he became the first player born in the 2000s to score an NHL goal. Now, he's the first player born in the 2000s to do so in the playoffs.

Svechnikov's first goal was the stuff of someone who is more physically and skillfully mature beyond his barely 19 years.

Lucas Wallmark dropped the puck off for Svechnikov just over the blue line. The Canes' rookie then put his left shoulder down on defenseman John Carlson, protected the puck with his right hand on his stick and made a power backhand-to-forehand move to beat Braden Holtby with a quick snapshot in tight.

Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Svechnikov buries first playoff goal

That's composure and skill you don't quite expect to see out of a teenager competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Svechnikov? He's special.

"He's already an impact player for us. He's a great player," Sebastian Aho said. "It's impressive, but I wasn't surprised."

Equally impressive was Svechnikov's second of the game, scored just about two-and-a-half minutes after his first. Wallmark again recorded the primary assist, this time with a gorgeous cross-ice pass to Svechnikov, who got off a one-timer from the right circle that rocketed into the net before Holtby could slide laterally across the crease.

Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Svechnikov rips home one-timer

"I've got to figure out how to get him more ice time and get him freed up a little more," Brind'Amour said. "He has that ability. He's one of those game-changing-type players. He has that in him."

That game-changing ability was on display in Game 1, as he spearheaded his team's comeback attempt against the defending champs in a hostile environment.

"I feel like I'm pretty confident," he said. "I love these games."

And to think he's just getting started.

Svech is ready, all right.

"Eventually he'll be an absolute force out there," Williams said. "He's a really good player already, but he's got potential to be a star. You can just tell by his release and competitiveness that he's going to get there."

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