It's rare now that a game goes by in which Martin Necas doesn't dazzle with his playmaking ability or add a jaw-dropping goal to the highlight reel.
It was another big week for the Canes' breakout performer. In three victories, Necas recorded four goals, including one game winner, and three assists, including the primary helper on an overtime winner, to earn NHL Second Star of the Week honors.
As Necas continues to garner more well-deserved recognition from the league (he was named the Third Star of the Week in early March), the bigger his star status grows.
The Canes already knew that, though.
"I know how good he is," Sebastian Aho said last week. "Our team knows how good he is, but maybe for the media and other teams, maybe he's underrated. Our team for sure knows how good he is."
Let's look back at the week that was for Necas.
3-0 W at Columbus on March 22: 1 goal
Necas emphatically began his week with a beauty of a give-and-go goal, which stretched the Canes' lead to 3-0 in Columbus on March 22. The chemistry between Aho and Necas is palpable, and it's plainly evident in a mesmerizing sequence of one-touch passes. In transition, Aho dropped the puck back to Necas, who one-touched it back to Aho, who then one-touched it over to Necas for the one-timer finish.
4-3 W (OT) at Columbus on March 25: 1 goal, 1 assist
As if his goal three nights prior wasn't pretty enough, Necas followed it up with another beauty.
Late in the second period, Necas hopped over the boards and twirled his stick, as if he knew he was about to make some magic with it. And then he did just that.
Necas sped to a loose puck and then accelerated as he cruised around the defense. He circled around the back of the cage at top speed, and with his left knee rotating on the ice, Necas stuffed in the puck on a wrap-around.
The celly said it all.
Necas wasn't finished. About 80 seconds into overtime, he helped set up Aho's game winner. The sequence started in the defensive zone, where Necas poked his stick out to defend a Jack Roslovic pass. The puck popped out into the neutral zone, and Necas raced to chase it down.
Necas shrugged off Zach Werenski to get off a backhand chance, and though Joonas Korpisalo bodied down the shot, he couldn't control the rebound. Necas picked up the puck, and with Korpisalo having drifted out of his crease, Necas centered to Aho for the emphatic one-timer finish into the open net.
4-3 W vs. Tampa Bay on March 27: 2 goals, 2 assists
Necas finished his week with an exclamation point, equaling a career-best performance with four points, the game-winning goal included in a signature 4-3 win against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Necas factored in on all four of the Canes' goals, beginning with Cedric Paquette's tally against his former team at the 2:24 mark of the second period. Credit to Brett Pesce for the heads-up play he made with the puck to move it up through the neutral zone to Necas at the far blue line, catching the Lightning on a line change. Necas then slid the puck to Paquette, who snuck in behind his old teammates on a breakaway.
Just 62 seconds later, Necas helped set up Aho's game-tying tally on a 3-on-1 rush. As the Canes took advantage of another defensive breakdown by the Lightning, Necas outwaited the sliding defense of Jan Rutta to drop the puck back to Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter faked a shot, settled the puck and fed Aho for the one-time, chip-shot finish.
On a power play later in the second period, Necas scored his first of the game to put the Canes ahead 3-2. When Andrei Svechnikov's shot bounced off Aho in the slot, Necas converged on the loose puck to pop it past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
With the score tied at three and the Canes back on the power play late in regulation, Necas struck again. It was a simple play, as he stepped up at the top of the right circle and fired a laser wrist shot through Jordan Staal's screen in front and past Vasilevskiy, but it also underscored his game-breaking abilities.
What Have We Learned?
As Aho noted, the Canes aren't exactly learning anything they didn't already know, but it sure is fun to watch breakout performance after breakout performance from a star in the making. Whether he's using his speed to find open ice, his stickwork to find an open teammate or his underrated shot to scorch a puck past a goaltender, it's clear that Necas possesses elite offensive talents that are now being showcased in the best league in the world.
"He's blossoming and maturing. The talent has always been there, and then you figure out how to play," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "You're starting to see all that come together."