Necas lifts returning Hurricanes past Lightning 1-0 in OT
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Rod Brind’Amour got the tough and determined performance he wanted from his Carolina Hurricanes as they returned from a pause due to COVID-19 concerns.
It helped to have a goaltender who stopped everything that came his way.
Martin Necas beat Andrei Vasilevskiy at 1:12 of overtime and Petr Mrazek had 32 saves to help the Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 on Thursday night after having four straight games postponed.
“I was really, really impressed with the way we played,” Brind’Amour said. “Came out just hard, and for 60 minutes, we were good. ... I had expected actually more rust to be honest with you, so I was pretty happy with everything.”
Necas scored off a perfect feed from Jordan Staal on the left side, with Staal starting a shift by sending the puck slipping by defenseman Victor Hedman. Necas came charging in on the right and put the pack past Vasilevskiy’s outscretched glove — the only blemish on what had been strong performances in net at both ends.
The Hurricanes had played just three games before having to shut down workouts with the league postponing four games, the first coming nine days ago. The Hurricanes ultimately had six players go on the NHL’s daily unavailability list, with Staal returning in time to play this game but five others — including forward Teuvo Teravainen and defenseman Jaccob Slavin — still sidelined.
Brind’Amour had been worried about players having to juggle roles with a short-handed roster, as well as conditioning issues. But Carolina got off to a fast start, firing 15 shots at Vasilevskiy in the opening period with little sign of rust.
And Mrazek was up to the challenge against the reigning Stanley Cup champions the rest of the night.
“It felt like kind of the start of the season all over again,” Staal said. “It was a weird feeling kind of going into the game. (Brind’Amour) I thought did a great job of making sure we were on the attack. We wanted to get into it right away and get after them.”
Vasilevskiy made 34 saves, and Mrazek had 32. Both also caught a bit of fortune, too, with Carolina’s Sebastian Aho firing a shot off the post in the first period while Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos pinged the crossbar with 3:14 left in the third after getting loose for a clean look.
“That was a goaltending duel tonight,” Tampa Bay forward Brayden Point said. “I thought they both played great. Vasie made some huge saves to keep us in that, especially late to even force us to get a point. ... We’ve got to try to tighten things up for him and try to limit those Grade-A scoring chances.”
There were no changes to Thursday’s COVID-19 unavailability list from the league for the Hurricanes. Teravainen and Slavin have been on the list along with forwards Warren Foegele and Jordan Martinook since Jan. 19, when the league called off the Hurricanes’ second game with the Predators for its first in-season postponement.
Jesper Fast, an offseason signee from the New York Rangers, was added Saturday.
Tampa Bay goaltender Curtis McElhinney remained the only Lightning player on Thursday’s list.
The short-handed Hurricanes recalled five players to the active roster for the game.
Four — forwards Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz and Max McCormick, and defenseman Jake Bean — were taxi-squad recalls, while the team also recalled forward Sheldon Rempal from Chicago of the American Hockey League.
It was the NHL debut for Lorentz, a seventh-round pick by Carolina in 2015.
Lightning: Tampa Bay visits Nashville on Saturday to start a two-game set.
Hurricanes: Carolina hosts Dallas on Saturday in the first of two games against the Stars, who had a delayed start to their season due to their own COVID-19 issues.
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