If you were a Carolina Hurricanes fan who left at the second intermission – no one would have blamed you – and drove home in a funk with the radio off, you would have been downright despondent about the way the Hurricanes played Tuesday night.
The second period was the worst single period played by the Hurricanes in some years, not only because they took a lead into it and were outscored by four goals by one of the rare teams in the NHL with fewer points than the Hurricanes, but because the Hurricanes looked listless with the puck and timid without it, ceding control of the ice in front of their net without any fight whatsoever, letting Jeff Skinner get dumped to the ice from behind, hanging Cam Ward completely out to dry before he was removed, mercifully. With owner Peter Karmanos visiting Raleigh and in attendance, no less.
And this isn't a team that, this season, has always made it imperative to stick around for the third period. The Hurricanes are only 7-1-5 when leading at the second intermission, which actually undersells how many opportunities they have had late in games. This didn't seem like the kind of night where they were going to turn it around, either.
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It was miserable. Terrible. Enough to question the direction of the franchise, if not fandom itself. Hit the road, beat the traffic? Not the worst idea in the world.
“It was a weird period, the second period,” Skinner said afterward. “Pretty embarrassing, actually.”
So it will be with some confusion that this hypothetical fan – and surely there were some who went up the aisles and never returned, although most did stick around to see what happened – will discover late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning that the Hurricanes actually beat the Vancouver Canucks 8-6, and that what happened in the first six minutes of the third period will be remembered and relived for some time.
But make no mistake: The Hurricanes were left for dead going into the third. How they turned it around, only they know. But they surely did, and spent no time doing it. They opened the period on a power play, and converted. The players said that's when they felt things change. Then Ron Hainsey's shot from the blue line made its way through traffic and into the net. That's when Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said he felt things change.
Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins challenged the goal, and for whatever reason the challenge took forever to adjudicate. The newly composed line of Skinner, Victor Rask and Derek Ryan had been on the ice for Hainsey's goal. Thanks to the pause that refreshed, Peters sent them right back out. And 24 seconds of game time and several minutes of real time later, Ryan set up Rask to make it 5-5. Justin Faulk finished up the four-goal flurry with a shot from the right circle that appeared to be deflected by Elias Lindholm, unofficially at least.
That's how they went from 5-2 down to 6-5 up in the space of 4 minutes, 40 seconds, spending the first six minutes of the third period almost entirely in the Vancouver zone, peppering the net with pucks, chasing Ryan Miller – having his worst night in this building in almost 11 years – and showing an inner tenacity and gumption that they had appeared to lack entirely only a few minutes earlier.
At one point, the goal announcements were stacked up like cars on a highway in rush hour, a good problem for the home team to have. It was the Hurricanes' fastest four-goal spurt since 2007, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Losing to the Canucks would have been bad enough, but seeing a six-game home winning streak end with a performance so inexcusably subpar would have been criminal.
The Hurricanes tacked on a seventh midway through the third, and they'd need it, after old friend Brandon Sutter ended the Hurricanes streak of goals at five to inject some drama into the final six minutes of a game that felt more like something out of 1986 than 2016.
“I haven't seen it at this level,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “I'll tell you that.”
So if you left after the second, and again, no one would blame you for losing faith given the paucity of the Hurricanes' display, you missed what might have been the most resilient effort of the Hurricanes' season, the Hurricanes' quickest bang-bang-bang-bang scoring run in a decade and a turnaround that was equal parts impressive and improbable.
Most fans, though, stuck around. They may not have been expecting much, especially after the second. They were rewarded with one of the most unusual, improbable wins in recent memory, on a night when a seventh straight Hurricanes win at home seemed the least of the momentous events.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock