Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton recently was talking about the difference between teams that make the Stanley Cup playoffs and teams that don’t, having played on both.
Talent, goaltending, injuries all are factors, Hamilton said, but also the ability to somehow squeeze points out of games where you’re not at your best or close to a regulation loss.
The Hurricanes did a lot of squeezing Saturday.
Sixty-eight seconds away from their first regulation loss of the season, and Rod Brind’Amour’s first as a head coach, the Canes first tied the score against the Minnesota Wild on Justin Williams’ goal, then won it 5-4 at 2:57 in overtime on Sebastian Aho’s second of the game.
Just like that, two points.
Tweeted Canes owner Tom Dundon: “I can’t take much more of this!”
The Canes, who were starting a three-game road trip, were 4-0-1 and headed to Winnipeg. That was tied for the best start in franchise history -- the Canes/Hartford Whalers were 4-0-1 in 1995-96.
“You’ve got to give all the credit to our guys, they kept battling back,” Brind’Amour said. “When they kept getting ahead there was no quit in our group. There are a lot of things to get better at but I just love the way we’re not giving up.”
Williams’ goal with 1:08 left in regulation, his first of the season, came on a tight-angled shot after the Canes had pulled goalie Curtis McElhinney for a sixth attacker. Aho then ended it with a shot from the slot, ripping it past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Aho was a slow starter offensively his first two years in the NHL, but not in his third. The center has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the first five games.
Aho finished with two goals and two assists for the Canes, who outshot the Wild 57-23, and McElhinney earned his third victory in as many starts with 19 saves. Williams had two assists and defenseman Brett Pesce a goal and assist.
The Canes led 1-0 in the first on Jordan Staal’s goal and 2-1 in the second when Pesce redirected an Aho shot. The Wild took a 3-2 lead in the third before Aho tied the score with his first goal on a power play, and Minnesota led 4-3 after Mikael Granlund’s score at 15:47 of the third at Xcel Energy Center.
“You can’t argue with the compete in this group right now,” Brind’Amour said. “The message has been pretty clear from day one and they’ve done what we’ve asked of them.
“I think they see it’s a fun way to play but also a way where we can have outcomes like tonight where we can come back. They believe in each other and we have to keep that momentum.”
Brind’Amour set some franchise history, too -- the first coach to earn points in each of his first five games.