Hurricanes return home, counting on crowd

Canes’ Aho” “We need to find way”

Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho scored his first goal in 16 games in Game 2 of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals, saying it was "good for the confidence" but that the Canes have yet to play their best game.
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Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho scored his first goal in 16 games in Game 2 of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals, saying it was "good for the confidence" but that the Canes have yet to play their best game.

There were fans at RDU International Airport when the Carolina Hurricanes landed Saturday night after their Game 2 loss to the Washington Capitals, harkening back to playoffs past here. How much it will harken back remains to be seen Monday night, but expectations are certainly high after the 10-year gap.

“I’m expecting a loud building,” said Hurricanes center Jordan Staal, who played in the last playoff game in PNC Arena as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. “As a road team then, it was one of the loudest buildings I played in. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Returning home for Game 3 down 2-0 to the Capitals, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said the team expects a sellout Monday night. Waddell said the NHL released 700 tickets back to the team Sunday morning, many of them singles, and more than 200 sold in the first two hours. Whether it’s officially a sellout or not, hopes remain high for the atmosphere inside and outside the building for which this team was once known.

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Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his goal with defensemen Dougie Hamilton (19) and Jaccob Slavin (74) and right wing Andrei Svechnikov (37) during the third period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Washington. Nick Wass AP

“It’s loud everywhere,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Maybe just because it’s your crowd, but it does feel a lot louder than most places when it’s rocking in here. I don’t know it really has an effect one way or another. I don’t think Washington is too worried about it.

“We do it right on that thing. They know how to have a good time. They know how to enjoy the game. They certainly don’t sit on their hands and watch.”

ALL CLEAR The NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided not impose any supplementary discipline on Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton or Alex Ovechkin for their penalized head hits in Game 2, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said Sunday.

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Carolina Hurricanes left wing Micheal Ferland (79) is shown to the bench by linesman Kiel Murchison (79) after he received a match penalty for a hit to the head of Washington Capitals’ Nic Dowd, not seen, during the second period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3 in overtime. Nick Wass AP

Brind’Amour was still unhappy with the match penalty on Ferland a day later.

“They huddle over there, as a four-man group, and that means somebody said it was a for-sure hit to the head, to make that call,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s my problem. If you’re sure, then I’m OK with it, but when I look and see that it’s not, somebody’s lying. … It’s not on the refs for me. It’s too hard. I saw it live and said, ‘Ooh, that’s tough,’ because you see the head snap back. That’s the point where the NHL needs to help these guys out. It’s too hard. ...

“The problem is when four of them get together and say this is what happened, when it didn’t, that’s when I have a problem. What should happen is, if you don’t know, it should be a two-minute penalty and you let player safety figure it out later, you don’t make it a five-minute penalty and kick a guy out.”

TOP SHELF While it’s probably impossible for anyone to match up offensively with the Capitals’ high-powered top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson, the Hurricanes’ top two lines have been badly outplayed in the series, even with Sebastian Aho breaking his drought Saturday.

Backstrom, the playoffs’ leading scorer with three goals and one assist going into Sunday’s games, is single-handedly outscoring all of Carolina’s top-six forwards, who have combined for two goals, one assist and a garish minus-15 even as the Hurricanes have had a substantial five-on-five possession edge.

“There’s a lot of details in the game we can do better,” Aho said. “It all starts with when you defense well, that’s how you get your own chances, too.”

Staal has a power-play goal, Aho has a goal and Justin Williams has an assist. Nino Niederreiter, Teuvo Teravainen and Ferland are scoreless. If it weren’t for Lucas Wallmark and Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes would be in even bigger trouble.

“They need to be better. That’s for sure. That’s obvious,” Brind’Amour said. “Whether they were scoring or not, I’d be saying that because they’re not getting the chances, they’re not creating enough and they’re giving up too much. That’s not a good recipe. Those guys have found a way all year to figure it out, whether we change the lines or do something different to spark something, we’ll see. Our top guys, they got to show up, or it’s going to be real, real tough.”

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.