Brock McGinn went into the zone not with the intent to harm, but with a clear intent to hit.
It was almost seven minutes in the second period Sunday and the Carolina Hurricanes leading the Winnipeg Jets 1-0. McGinn was the first forward into the Jets zone on the forecheck and Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom was playing the puck.
McGinn put a shoulder into Enstrom’s chest, knocking him into the boards. It was a clean, hard hit, the kind that brings fans out of their seats and energizes the players on the ice and on the bench.
The Canes’ Derek Ryan wound up getting a shot. McGinn, who then hustled after the puck, wound up engaged with Andrew Copp of the Jets, who seemed more than willing to drop the gloves.
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But McGinn kept his cool, let Copp do most of the pushing and heavy breathing. Copp soon was headed to the penalty box and the Canes on the power play.
“Hits like that definitely get the energy up on both teams, so it brings more fun to the game, I think,” McGinn said. “Everybody gets that intensity up and just gets angry out there and makes those two points more deserving.”
The Canes got the two points and the Jets left the game tired and angry. Carolina’s 3-1 victory extended its winning streak to four games and made for a happy locker room Sunday.
McGinn, 22, made the most of his 7:49 in ice time, the lowest of the Canes’ skaters. Of that total, 2:20 came shorthanded, as a part of the Canes’ penalty killers who now have killed off 19 straight penalties and lead the NHL in penalty-kill percentage (91.3).
“Penalty killing really brings momentum to the team,” McGinn said. “We really grab energy from those, brings energy through the whole lineup.”
Had McGinn scored on a three-on-one rush earlier in the second period — his attempt hit the post — it might have been a perfect night for the former second-round draft pick. But he made an impression, both with his three hits — ask Toby Enstrom — and shorthanded hustle.
“He had that big hit, he had a couple of real good looks,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “He’s a good two-way player.”
Recalled with Ryan on Nov. 11 from the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL team, McGinn was a part of the four straight victories that have pushed the Canes up the Eastern Conference standings. That’ll keep you around.
When the Canes edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Friday, McGinn did not play in the third period as Peters shortened the bench. But he played in the third Sunday as Peters used four lines.
“He plays so hard,” Canes defenseman Noah Hanifin said. “He’s a real physical, tough kid and it’s awesome having him in the lineup, with the way he plays.”
McGinn gained instant attention last season when he scored his first NHL goal on his first shift of the first game, against the Detroit Red Wings. Fifty-five seconds in and he had a goal. And while the Canes would like offensive production from him, more rough-and-tumble, sandpaper play also is needed from the 6-foot, 185-pounder.
“I think we did a good job tonight of not backing down and not losing our cool when the game got a little chippy,” McGinn said. “We just stayed on pucks and kept going.”
That’s his intent for now — stay on pucks, keep going. It could keep him in the NHL.