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Recap: Aho, Zykov Shine as Canes Top Rangers

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Raleigh

Sebastian Aho scored two power-play goals in the third period, Valentin Zykov scored his first career NHL goal in his NHL debut and Cam Ward made 40 saves as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Rangers, 4-3.

"It's a good group in that room. They're good people, and they care," head coach Bill Peters said. "It has been a tough stretch here … and tonight we found a way."

Video: Aho's two power-play goals lead 'Canes past Rangers

→ Hurricanes rookie forward Sebastian Aho is as advertised.

Aho's two power-play goals in the third period were the difference in a game that was heavily reliant on special teams.

"His hockey sense is elite. His compete is very high, and his skill, you see it. It's on display," head coach Bill Peters said. "He had good jump again tonight."

With the Canes down 3-2, Aho ripped a clapper from the point. Elias Lindholm provided the screen in the slot, and the Rangers thought he interfered with goaltender Antti Raanta, but an official review said otherwise.

Later, Lindholm had his twig snapped in half in the slot, and the Hurricanes were rewarded with another power play. On the ensuing man advantage, Lindholm fought off a pair of defenders to slide the puck to Jordan Staal, who then dished to Aho for the one-time goal.

"It was a good battle from Lindy. A couple of nice passes, and I just put it in the empty net," Aho said.

The 19-year-old rookie now has 20 goals on the season, a mark that's even more impressive when you consider he didn't score his first goal until game 14.

"It's a nice number," Aho said, simply, of his jersey number's equal in goals. "The first 20 games were pretty tough for me, but after that I got more comfortable and got some confidence."

"He was good right out of the gate. You're seeing a quiet confidence. He's a very quiet kid and a very humble kid. Obviously kudos to his family for his upbringing to be that mature at his age in the league," Ward said. "He's a pro already. He takes care of himself, and he's probably in the gym working out right now, doing the little things that make a difference in this league. He's probably finding some chemistry with some players and teammates. He's a valuable player for our team and will be for years to come."

Valentin Zykov made a near immediate impact in his NHL debut, scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot - and he did so by willing his way to the front of the net. The 21-year-old Russian winger out-muscled both Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal to locate and deposit a rebound to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead in the game.

"It's not the prettiest one, but it's a goal," Zykov said. "That's all that matters."

"You've got to be at the net. He's smart enough to know that," Peters said. "I thought he was fine tonight for his first game. I'm sure he was a little bit nervous, but he settled in and gave us some good minutes."

Powering his way to the front of the net is, after all, what Zykov can do well with his 6-foot-1, 224-pound frame.

"He's that guy. He's a big, physical guy. We need more guys like that to be able to crash the net and make it difficult on our opposing goaltenders," Ward said. "It's a memory that he'll always remember, and it was great that we were able to win and also give him the ax and belt as a compliment to him."

"Just play hockey, that's all," Zykov said.

→ Just 29 seconds earlier, the Rangers turned the puck over to Victor Rask, who then fed Jeff Skinner in the slot. Skinner dangled and scored his team-leading 21st goal of the season to tie the game at one.

"When we played 5-on-5 and were skating early in the game, we were fine," Peters said. "What happens is we were shorthanded so much that some guys sit. They can't get into the flow of the game. Once we got the flow of the game going, I liked our team."

→ Not only were the Hurricanes whistled for an uncharacteristic amount of penalties (six), but they also allowed an uncharacteristic amount of power-play goals (three).

"It was a crazy specialty teams game, for sure. They got the jump on it," Peters said. "Legit, too. We took some penalties that were unnecessary. It was a good answer by the power play in the third period to respond."

All three of the Rangers' goals were scored on the man advantage, including two from Mika Zibanejad in the second period, as New York grabbed a 3-2 lead.

"You look at their three goals on the power play, we were kind of creating our own problems," Ward said. "We were able to correct that in the second intermission, and then they started to do the same. They created the penalties, and our power play really stepped up."

"Our penalty kill has been good all year. Recently here, it's struggled a little bit," Peters said. "It's about clearing the puck. We've failed to clear, so we're in our zone too much and we can't get guys off when they get a little bit tired. We'll address that and work on it."

→ The Hurricanes will look to string together consecutive wins for the first time since the first week of February when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit town on Saturday.

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