The Carolina Hurricanes shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in the second straight game of a back to back.
Most surprising was that despite Carolina dressing most of what will more than likely be its opening-day NHL roster, the Hurricanes’ offense was run by the fourth line. Composed of players who spent most of last year playing for the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, these players are competing for the final roster spots out of camp. Forwards Steven Lorentz and Clark Bishop tallied the two goals for the Canes.
“I wasn’t too sure if I was going to be able to get into a preseason game this year,” Lorentz said. “But I think I worked hard and had a pretty good summer. I feel like I earned my spot today and I am happy with the way I played, but there is always room for improvement.”
The second game of the preseason for the Hurricanes gave them the opportunity to try out what will more than likely be the majority of its opening-night roster. With essentially the top nine cemented, Carolina got a chance to try them out and even see their work on the man advantage. However, the Lightning kept the majority of the Hurricanes top names off the scoresheet.
“It’s their first game,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I think we have a lot of good players, but we need contributions from everyone. The guys in Charlotte had a successful season last year and some of those guys are getting their opportunity and they are making the most out of it.”
One of the most impressive pieces for the Hurricanes was Julien Gauthier. The 6-foot-4 winger was drafted by Carolina in the first round of the 2016 NHL entry draft, and spent the past year playing for the Charlotte Checkers. As the only player to have played in both games of the back to back, Gauthier has asserted himself as a strong power forward in the first two games of the preseason.
While not as present on the scoresheet, with only a single assist, Gauthier’s overall play has been phenomenal. Already able to use his size to gain position on the puck and drive to the net, Guthier basically set up the Hurricanes first goal on his own with his strength and playmaking. Even if he doesn’t crack an already stacked Carolina roster, Gauthier could already make a case as one of the first call-ups for Brind’Amour
“[Gauthier’s] certainly picked up, I don’t want to say his speed, but his confidence,” Brind’Amour said. “The confidence is there and he’s gotten in much better shape than he was a year ago. The strength is there, like he’s a bull out there, and he has good hands too around the net. He’s not afraid to take it to the net. He’s that power forward and if we can work on some other things to help him get to this level then that’s obviously the goal.”
The opening period saw the Hurricanes with a multitude of scoring chances including a chance for the top power-play units to try their hands, but the Canes could not cash in. A few power moves, a shot off the post and a amplitude of shots high or wide gave a glimpse of Carolina’s offense, however, the game remained scoreless after one period.
The Hurricanes opened up the scoring in the second period as Gauthier executed a strong power move to the net, shouldering a Tampa defender out of his way and put a shot on goal. He collected his own rebound and put the puck back again at the net. Laying near the goal line, the puck was finally put in by Lorentz, who split time last year between the Florida Everblades and the Charlotte Checkers, to put the Canes up 1-0.
Despite having several more power-play opportunities, the Hurricanes did not capitalize on any of them. The second period ended with Carolina up by one.
The fourth line kept producing for the Canes, as about five minutes into the third period, Clark Bishop, who also played last year in Charlotte, capitalized on a Tampa Bay turnover, pulled off a spin-around move and followed it all up by going top corner on a snipe to put the Hurricanes up 2-0.
The Hurricanes would ride that lead to a shutout victory shared by a goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek, who faced six shots, and Alex Nedeljkovic, who faced 15 shots.
The team took a hit, however, as newly acquired center Erik Haula was ruled out of the game early in the third period with a lower-body injury. After the game, Brind’Amour stated that Haula was kept out of the game for precautionary reasons and that it wasn’t related to the knee injury he suffered last year.
The team will continue its preseason schedule as it travels to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Capitals Saturday, Sept. 21.