The Carolina Hurricanes suddenly look like a special-teams juggernaut, and they’ll look to keep the momentum rolling when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Carolina’s penalty-kill unit has been consistently strong all season, and the Hurricanes are a perfect 19-for-19 on the kill over their last seven games. Heading into the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline, however, the Hurricanes hoped the acquisition of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere would help spark the team’s unimpressive power play.
Through two games with Gostisbehere, that spark has been an inferno. The Hurricanes have scored seven times in their last nine power-play chances, with Gostisbehere contributing four points (two goals and two assists) with the extra attacker.
By comparison, the Hurricanes had scored only 37 power-play goals in their first 59 games of the season.
“It’s what we needed, to have a quarterback back there, another one to help facilitate that power play. (Gostisbehere) obviously knows what he’s doing,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
With both sides of the special teams unit streaking, the Hurricanes recorded two of their biggest wins of the season. Carolina’s 6-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes was followed by a 6-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, and the Hurricanes outshot opponents by an 80-32 margin in those two games.
A victory on Tuesday would extend the Hurricanes’ narrow lead in the Metropolitan Division, as the New Jersey Devils sit just two points behind Carolina.
The Hurricanes’ great form provides even more of a challenge to a Canadiens team that is near the bottom of the NHL in power-play and penalty-kill percentage, as well as in last place in the Atlantic Division.
The Canadiens have lost three straight games, all one-goal defeats that saw the Habs score late to try and mount a comeback. In Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, Montreal trailed 4-1 through 48 minutes before Alex Belzile and Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored within a 35-second span in the third period.
“I don’t think we have to cheat (on defense) to generate chances and you’re seeing that, so I never feel like we’re out of it. … I know we have the type of game that we can crawl back,” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said.
St. Louis credited goaltender Jake Allen with keeping the Habs close after some early dominance from the Golden Knights. Allen stopped 24 of 28 shots against Vegas, but since the Canadiens have recently been alternating starts in net, Sam Montembeault might get the call to face Carolina.
Frederik Andersen only needed to make 14 saves for the relatively easy shutout over Tampa Bay. Andersen has gotten the slight majority of recent starts for Carolina, but Antti Raanta is 13-0-2 in his last 15 decisions.
Forward Martin Necas has seven points (two goals, five assists) over Carolina’s last three games.
Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games.
Dating back to the 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games against Montreal. The lopsided rivalry includes the first meeting of this season, a 6-2 win for the Hurricanes on February 16.
–Field Level Media