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Canes Hang On to Top Blackhawks, 7-5

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

TRAVERSE CITY – It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was a win nonetheless.

Leading 5-0 heading into the third period, the Carolina Hurricanes staved off a five-goal push by the Chicago Blackhawks to emerge victorious, 7-5. Haydn Fleury recorded three assists, Lucas Wallmark (1g, 2a) also had a three-point night and Phil Di Giuseppe scored two goals, including the eventual game-winning tally and an empty-netter to seal it.

“We put them on their heels, and I thought we were outplaying them for the first 40 minutes and then took a step back. Before you know it, they put five in,” Di Giuseppe said. “You don’t want that to happen. It’s easy to get down, sit back and overthink things, but we got through it and ended up winning the game.”

“It was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride there in the third. It’s typical for a team that has a lead, you either take shortcuts or sit back and want it to be easy. Hopefully we take a lesson out of that,” head coach Mark Morris said. “There were a couple nice plays that we want to hang onto. But you’ve got to find a way to play the same way that got you to that number. Unfortunately it was not exactly how we drew it up.”

A trio of quick strikes made it a 5-3 game midway through the final stanza. Then, the Canes power play connected as Sergey Tolchinsky fed Di Giuseppe in the slot for the bang-bang tally. That would stretch the lead to 6-3, and though Chicago would roar back with another pair of goals, Di Giuseppe would salt the game away with his empty-net goal.

“I think we kind of took our foot off the pedal for a bit, but that power-play goal was big,” Fleury said. “It gave us a little bit of momentum back, and we ended up needing it.”

“We were able to weather the storm. We got away from our systems. We got away from what worked for us. We seemed to get back on our heels,” Morris said. “The other team was free-wheeling through the neutral zone, and our coverage was a little suspect. They were coming hard, we didn’t pick guys up and they got second chances. It paid off for them.”

The Canes offense was buoyed by a three-goal first period. First, Roland McKeown sprung Lucas Wallmark on a breakaway, and he finished. Then, Clark Bishop punched in a rebound off a Fleury point snap. Finally, Tolchinsky cut into the slot and beat Chicago’s Brandon Hope. It was perhaps the best 20 minutes the team has played thus far in the tournament.

“We had a good first that got us the lead, and we kind of got away from that,” Fleury said. “We beared down at the end and got two points.”

“I was really impressed, especially in the first period, how well we moved the puck through neutral ice,” Morris said. “We made some really smart plays. We came with speed, and it created some great opportunities for us.”

After being shut out 1-0 in the tournament opener, the Hurricanes have scored 12 goals in their last two games, now having found their offensive rhythm.

“Everyone’s getting a little more familiar with each other,” Fleury said.

“We’d like to keep the goals against down, but it’s nice to have a lot of people contributing,” Di Giuseppe said.

By virtue of the team’s victory and Detroit’s 5-4 edging of Dallas, the Hurricanes finish second in the Gordie Howe Division with five points. Carolina will face its standings’ opposite, the St. Louis Blues, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday for third place in the tournament.

“I’m looking at this game as a learning experience for us,” Morris said. “Hopefully our guys will take a good look at themselves and realize that, in order to play at a high level, you’ve got to find ways to finish off games when you get a start like we had.”

2015-16 PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT
DATE VISITOR HOME TIME / RESULT
FRI SEP 11, 2015 RED WINGS HURRICANES 1-0
SAT SEP 12, 2015 HURRICANES STARS 5-4 (OT)
MON SEP 14, 2015 BLACKHAWKS HURRICANES 5-7
TUE SEP 15, 2015 BLUES HURRICANES 6:30 PM


Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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