With the Carolina Hurricanes headed to the fourth round of a shootout Tuesday against Ottawa, Canes coach Bill Peters looked down the bench and picked … Jaccob Slavin?
The defenseman has had a a very good rookie season. But Slavin had scored one goal in 48 games. He had never taken an NHL shootout shot.
“Guys were adamant that we go with ‘Slavs,’” Peters said.
In this case, the “guys” were assistant coaches Rod Brind’Amour, Steve Smith and David Marcoux. They had seen and charted Slavin in shootouts in practice, showing off some impressive one-on-one moves. There also was the element of surprise.
One could almost see Sens goalie Andrew Hammond squinting and staring down the ice, making sure he was seeing No. 74 coming off the bench and not, say, Nathan Gerbe or Elias Lindholm.
Slavin skated in, calmly roofing a backhander. Hammond had no chance. After one last stop by Canes goalie Cam Ward on Zack Smith, it was over and the Canes were 4-3 winners.
“My go-to move,” Slavin said, smiling. “I’ve done that my whole life. It’s worked a couple of times for me in the past. I figured I’d give it a shot."
It wasn’t as dramatic as Jeff Skinner’s last-gasp goal. With Ward out of net for a sixth attacker, Skinner whipped a shot past Hammond with a few tenths of a second left in regulation for a 3-3 tie.
And Riley Nash’s shootout goal may have been more clutch. After Mika Zibanejad, the Sens’ second shooter, had scored, Nash had to score to begin the third round to extend the shootout.
Ward then denied Mark Stone, who had scored in the first period, and Peters called on Slavin.
“I was a little surprised,” he said. “Coach slapped me on the back and I was a little nervous, I think.”
Slavin isn’t the nervous type. His shot looked almost routine, like he had done it a number of times before in games. He recalled scoring in a shootout in an exhibition game last season — at Colorado College.
This was different. This was with two NHL points on the line. And the Canes had not won a shootout this season, going 0-for-3.
“It’s a big win, a big comeback win,” Slavin said.
And a pretty big shot by a rookie.