The Carolina Hurricanes found themselves in a less-than-ideal situation with less than two minutes remaining in their contest against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 27. Sharks defenceman Mario Ferraro found the back of the net with 1:52 left in the third period to take a commanding 4-2 lead. However, the Hurricanes showcased their composure and brought the fans at PNC Arena to their feet as forwards Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas each scored in the final 100 seconds to knot the score up at four and force their league-leading 17th overtime.
Necas quickly capitalized on the opportunity presented in the overtime period as the 24-year-old scored 55 seconds in to give the Hurricanes the 5-4 victory over the Sharks. The thrilling victory moved the team’s win streak to four games and improved their overall record to 31-9-8 (70 points) as it continues to pace the Metropolitan Division with the 2023 All-Star Weekend on the horizon. Aho and Necas both surpassed the 20-goal mark in the Jan. 27 win, and find themselves tied with a team-leading 44 points on the season.
Aho Finding Groove
Aho has struggled to produce at a consistent level following his return from a lower-body injury that kept him out of action for a short period in December. However, it appears he’s gotten on the right track of late, as the 25-year-old has produced eight points (seven goals and one assist) in his past five games. The highlight of his recent run of great play came on Jan. 21 when he earned a hat trick against the New York Islanders. It’s no secret that the Hurricanes are a better team when Aho is playing at the high level he’s capable of on a nightly basis, so this recent trend in the right direction for the Finnish superstar is a welcome sight for Hurricanes’ head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
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Aho’s progress down the stretch as he continues finding his form following his lower-body injury will be a key storyline for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes. He surpassed the 200-goal mark on Jan. 25, setting a franchise record for the fewest games to reach the milestone at 485 games (Eric Staal, 497 games).
Necas in Midst of Career Year
Necas continues to show why he should have been chosen as an All-Star; the Czech forward leads the Hurricanes with 21 goals on the season, and he’s already surpassed his career-high marks in goals and points in only 48 games. Who knows where this team might be without the consistently high level of play he’s exhibited this season as he was key in keeping the offensive attack afloat while Aho was out with his injury.
I’ve said it several times this season, and I believe it continues to be true, Martin Necas’ re-signing has turned out to be the most impactful move made by the Hurricanes’ front office this past offseason. It seems like a long time ago at this point, but there were a lot of people calling for the Hurricanes to let him walk and move on after his disappointing 2021-22 season. They decided to bet on his long-term potential and that decision has paid immediate dividends as the speedy forward appears destined to be a key piece in Raleigh for years to come.
Never Count This Team Out
I believe one of the key takeaways from the Hurricanes’ 5-4 win over San Jose is the resiliency and composure that this group possesses, especially in moments of adversity. When the Sharks scored with 1:52 left in the contest it appeared that all hope was lost on the night; however, the team quickly answered with an Aho goal 15 seconds later to keep them in it. Necas continued his clutch play of late as he forced overtime, finding the back of the net with just under 12 seconds left in the third period. His heroics didn’t stop there as he put the finishing touches on the victory 55 seconds into overtime after converting a 2-on-1 opportunity alongside Andrei Svechnikov.
The Carolina Hurricanes continue to be on the short list of teams who appear to have the pieces to contend for the Stanley Cup. The three takeaways from this win are also key reasons I believe they have a solid chance to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2006.