On the Carolina Hurricanes’ home schedule, it had the look of a mostly nondescript pre-Christmas game: Dec. 16, Arizona.
Who knew it would have a must-win feel to it?
If it was such a game, the Canes did win it 3-0 Sunday at PNC Arena as goalie Petr Mrazek earned his first shutout of the season with 23 saves.
Warren Foegele scored his first goal in more than two months, Andrei Svechnikov added another in the second period and Sebastian Aho scored in the third for the Canes, who couldn’t hold a lead Friday against the Washington Capitals and lost 6-5 in a shootout.
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With losses in six of seven games before Sunday, something had to change, and quickly, for the Canes (14-13-5).
“After Friday, after letting that one slip, we knew today was a must-win,” Foegele said. “We couldn’t afford to lose this one. It was good to see everyone respond.”
Mrazek didn’t face a lot of shots but stopped all that came at him in his 15th career shutout and his first with the Canes. His last game against Arizona was memorable for all the wrong reasons, the Coyotes winning 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 2 and Mrazek suffering a lower-body injury that kept him out a month.
“I didn’t even think about that during the game,” Mrazek said. “I knew I got hurt there, but during the game I didn’t even think about it.”
Mrazek had some strong play in front of him Sunday -- defenseman Calvin de Haan, who had two assists, was named one of the game’s three stars -- and also showed some feistiness. When the Coyotes’ Lawson Crouse whacked his glove after he had smothered the puck, Mrazek quickly rose to give Crouse whack with his blocker.
‘”Yeah, well, I got a pretty good slash over there and just at the moment I wanted to give him one back,” Mrazek said.
If there was a downside to the victory, it was Svechnikov leaving the game in third after being cross-checked. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said the rookie forward “tweaked something” and was unable to continue, but had no other update.
The Canes had a scheduled practice Saturday but Brind’Amour cancelled it after the tough loss to the Caps. He said the players appeared mentally refreshed as much as anything Sunday and it showed in sharper play.
“We stuck to our game plan, which was nice to see and when we did have a couple of breakdowns Petr was really good,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s how you want to do it.”
Foegele seemed as much relieved as happy after his second-period goal.
After center Clark Bishop, who had six of the Canes’ season-high 48 hits, put a strong forechecking hit on the Coyotes’ Nick Cousins, Foegele won a battle for the puck along the boards and got it out to Brett Pesce at the point. Pesce went cross-ice to de Haan, who unloaded a shot.
With Phil Di Giuseppe planted in front of goalie Aldin Hill, Foegele went to the net and was in perfect position to collect the rebound and bang it in.
It was Foegele’s fourth goal of the season but his first since Oct. 9 against Vancouver and his first point in 25 games. He lifted his arms up to his head, then kicked out a leg and let out a scream.
“I don’t think I’ve gone that long without a goal or a point,” he said.
Svechnikov’s goal was his ninth and third in three games and was a no-doubter off the rush. Justin Williams got things moving with a pass to Justin Faulk, and Svechnikov hammered the puck past Hill off a Faulk setup pass -- Williams extending his point streak to five games.
“Getting the goal to go ahead helps,” Brind’Amour said. “Getting the second one just let some guys relax a little and just stick to the game plan. I think sometimes when we’re behind in a game our guys try to do too much. Today we didn’t have to do that.
“We just need everyone to do their job. It doesn’t have to be pretty every night.”
The Coyotes (14-16-2) were coming off an impressive win Friday, rallying from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Rangers in the third at Madison Square Garden for a 4-3 overtime win. And Hill brought some impressive numbers into the game: a 4-0-0 road record and 1.16 goals-against average that has given the Coyotes a lift after the loss of Antti Raanta.
Another prototypical tall NHL goalie, the 6-6 Hill kept the game scoreless in the first with back-to-back stops on rapid-fire shots by Jordan Martinook and then Aho. Hill made another stop on a Aho breakaway early in the third to keep it 2-0 after Aho hopped out of the penalty box, but Aho then scored his 12th of the season and fifth in the past five games.
Aho’s score came 25 seconds after the Coyotes had a potential goal disallowed. Alex Galchenyuk tipped the puck past Mrazek but was ruled to have had his stick about the crossbar.