CHICAGO - The Carolina Hurricanes began their three-game road trip with overtime victories in Buffalo and Minnesota, marking the second time this season that they've won consecutive games in the 3-on-3 extra session.
In fact, the Canes are 4-1 in overtime this season (plus one win in the shootout), a notable statistic because it's certainly better than the inverse - that's been the unfortunate historical trend for this club, which last had a winning record in overtime in the 2008-09 season (7-2) - and, perhaps most notably, it underscores the talent level of the Canes' roster this season.
With that said, how much of what happens in overtime is random?
"A lot," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said.
"Probably most is random, I think," Dougie Hamilton said.
That's the nature of the beast. In 3-on-3 play when there is so much open ice and general chaos, the events are, more often than not, random.
Randomness can be counteracted, at least to some degree, with talent. And with the way the Canes are built this season, they've at least set themselves up to be successful more often than not, as well.
"It's talent," Brind'Amour said. "At the end of the day, it's guys making plays. You've got to have playmakers. That's who plays in overtime."
The Canes have their fair share of playmakers, some younger than others, some with talent that's rawer than others'. But Brind'Amour isn't afraid to let his playmakers make plays within the loose confines of 3-on-3 strategy.
"There's a strategy, for sure, and every team pretty much has the same one," Brind'Amour said.
The bare-bones strategy is to hang on to the puck, and if you don't have the puck, try to get it back - but don't lose your man in the process, because that could very well lead to a quality scoring chance in the opposite direction.
"Something is usually going to happen out there," Hamilton said. "You're just trying to do your best so you can make it happen for your team and not get caught going the other way."
Martin Necas fell victim to a critical mistake on Oct. 24 in Columbus, which resulted in the Canes' only overtime loss of the season thus far. From behind his own net, Seth Jones fired a stretch pass up the ice to Pierre-Luc Dubois. He protected the puck along the near wall and motioned as if he was going to cut back into open ice in the neutral zone. Necas made this read, but instead, Dubois turned back down the boards, and all Necas could do was hope to slow him down. Dubois out-muscled Necas at the blue line, walked in on a 2-on-1 and slid a pass through a diving Jake Gardiner, right on the tape of Cam Atkinson's stick for the tap-in goal.
Necas slammed his stick in frustration.
"That wasn't great, but you've got to experience it sometimes," he said.
In the Canes' next overtime game, exactly three weeks later, Brind'Amour went right back to Necas, and the 20-year-old Czech rookie set up the game-winning goal with his speed and playmaking abilities, busting around the Sabres defense and setting up Hamilton for a scorching one-timer.
Video: CAR@BUF: Hamilton fires one-timer for game-winner
"That's where I have to really be careful. They make these mistakes, but the minute you clamp down too much on those mistakes, you're not going to see the other stuff. You have to live with some of it," Brind'Amour said. "You have to teach them the right way to play but also give them the freedom to play. That's the juggling act we go through as a group."
That trust Brind'Amour shows in his young, skilled players is paramount. There might have been a game-changing mistake made one night, but not suffocating talent with that one learning experience is what could lead to a game-changing play the next game.
"It makes a player better when you can show everything you've got," Necas said. "I feel better with the trust from the coach."
Necas admitted he was nervous to take the ice in overtime in Buffalo, especially after not playing much down the stretch of regulation. But, he went out and made a play. That's what he has the talent to do.
"I love 3-on-3 hockey," he said. "There's a lot of space, so you can try to make some plays and go one-on-one or two-on-one. It's always nice to be out there for OT and try to score the final goal."
Interestingly enough, defensemen scored the Canes' first three game-winning goals in overtime. Gardiner opted to shoot on a 2-on-1 rush, wristing a shot blocker-side on Braden Holtby in a 3-2 win in Washington on Oct. 5.
Video: CAR@WSH: Gardiner fires home game-winner in OT
The next night at home, Jordan Staal dished a pass over to Jaccob Slavin, who hammered home a one-timer in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay. Then, it was Hamilton scoring his ninth goal of the season in Buffalo.
Video: TBL@CAR: Slavin rips one-timer for OT winner
The first forward to find the back of the net in overtime for the Canes this season was Andrei Svechnikov in Minnesota, when he used his lethal wrist shot to beat Devan Dubnyk from the right circle.
Video: CAR@MIN: Svechnikov fires game-winning goal by Dubnyk
Playmakers up and down the lineup - that's been the early difference-maker for the Canes in overtime this season, as they've given themselves a good chance with the roster they've built to convert on the randomness that is 3-on-3 play.
"Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad," Hamilton mused.
It's been good most of the time for the Canes this season, and that's a good sign.