Teuvo Teravainen said he was tiring, the legs burning, but he had the game on his stick, open ice and two points in sight.
Fake the backhand, go forehand, and it was over. Teravainen had scored and the Carolina Hurricanes had beaten the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 on Thursday, in overtime, moving up in the standings, moving on.
Teravainen had enough energy left to let out a big yell after the winner. Then, another one before being swarmed by teammates.
Teravainen’s game production: two goals, one assist. Add in any number of smart stick plays and responsible defense and other slick passes and it was quite the game for the Finnish forward, enough for him to be named the game’s first star.
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The Canes recently made a sizable commitment to Teravainen, signing him to a five-year contract extension that bumps his salary up to an average of $5.4 million a season. Teravainen, in turn, has made a commitment -- to taking more ownership of a team that didn’t draft him but traded for him, that brought him to Raleigh from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016.
“It’s of course a good feeling and I’m excited about it,” Teravainen said in an interview this week. “I believe in this team a lot. I feel like we have a lot of good, young players and can be really good in the near future and I want to be part of that.
“Signing takes some stress away for me. But there’s a little more pressure on me to make a difference, I feel like. I have to be one of the guys who is good every night and help the team every night. That’s a lot of responsibility for me but I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a good challenge for me.”
Teravainen, 24, signed the extension Jan. 21. In the six games since pen went to paper, the guy his teammates call “Turbo” has four goals and five assists, pushing his season totals to 14 goals and 34 assists.
“Since he signed he’s been one of our best players for sure, so that’s great to see,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Maybe it’s taking some of the pressure off. Just let him go play.
“All year, he’s been solid. There are a lot of things you don’t notice about the way he plays. You see the high-skill things he does but there another level he’s been at this year, which is the defensive side of things He’s been really aware and we’ve upped his role because of it.”
Brind’Amour, looking to improve the Canes’ penalty killing, began using Teravainen and Sebastian Aho in shorthanded situations. Good move, too. Both are adept at getting sticks on pucks, anticipate well, break up passes, throw off the rhythm of the other team’s power play.
Added aggressiveness rubbed off on Teravainen, became more noticeable at even strength, all over the ice. His plus-19 rating after the Buffalo game tied defenseman Brett Pesce as the team high in plus/minus.
“He’s so damn smart,” Canes general manager Don Waddell said. “He’s a got a great stick. His hockey sense is so good. We always think of him as an offensive player but he’s a very reliable defensive player and he’s showing it now. There’s a lot to like.”
Against Buffalo at the Key Bank Center, Teravainen gave the Canes a 2-0 lead in the second period, snaring the puck after it banged off the crossbar and then slinging it into the net. In the third, a nice setup pass led to a Nino Niederreiter power-play goal and 5-3 lead.
“He has that elite talent. That’s what he can do for us,” Brind’Amour said.
‘I got lucky’
Then, the overtime. Teravainen found himself alone with the puck on the right wing.
“I was pretty tired but I figured I gotta go myself,” he said. “I got lucky.”
Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark might disagree. Teravainen made a quick, decisive move, first making the goalie commit to his backhand feint, then beating him with the forehand.
The Canes (27-21-6), having won the second game of their five-game road trip, improved to 7-2-1 in their past 10 road games and 12-4-1 in their past 17 games overall. Teravainen has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in the 17 games.
When Teravainen was traded to the Canes in June 2016, he had no say in the matter. The Helsinki native was a first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2012 and had a Stanley Cup ring, yet was made a part of the deal that also brought forward Bryan Bickell to Carolina as Chicago looked to free up salary-cup space.
At first, it was a shock to his system.
“It was new team, new staff, city, everything,” Teravainen said. “It took a little while and now I’m pretty comfortable around here and enjoy my time here. I feel like we’re going in the right direction.
“We haven’t been in the playoffs in a long time but everything we’re building is to be there. It takes some time but when we get there we’re going to stay there for a while. That’s our goal, to stay there for many years and win something.”