RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Nino Niederreiter has moved past the overthinking that plagued what he calls a “hiccup” year for the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s no coincidence he keeps finding the back of the net.
Niederreiter had two goals and an assist to help the Hurricanes cool off the Chicago Blackhawks with a 5-3 victory Friday, continuing the 28-year-old winger’s resurgence.
He now has nine goals in 15 games after managing just 11 in 67 games last season.
“I definitely didn’t plan to play the way I did last year,” Niederreiter said, “glad to find that jam again and play the way I’m doing right now.”
Before last year, he had thrived following his January 2019 trade from Minnesota, scoring 14 goals in 36 regular-season games for a team that ultimately reached the Eastern Conference finals.
“Last year he just couldn’t buy one,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That snowballs and you kind of fight it. Versus the opposite now, that a few have gone in and it snowballs the other way where you just feel like you can’t miss.”
Niederreiter capped his big night by scoring on the power play 15:04 into the third period. That made it 4-2, putting the Hurricanes in control after they blew a two-goal lead late in the second.
Martin Necas scored the go-ahead goal early in the third on the power play. Vincent Trocheck and Jaccob Slavin also found the net — with Slavin scoring on a long empty-netter with 3:14 left. James Reimer had 26 saves.
Patrick Kane had a spectacular goal and two assists for the Blackhawks, and Ian Mitchell scored in the final seconds before the second intermission. Chicago’s other goal came from Carl Soderberg in the game’s final minute. Lankinen had 33 saves.
The Blackhawks had won three in a row and six of seven.
“I thought we hung in there and showed some resiliency to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance to make a couple plays to be in a tie game,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I thought the third period we would just didn’t quite reach their level.”
WHAT A PLAY
Kane gave the Blackhawks a huge jolt with his second-period goal.
After a Carolina shot clanged off the post, Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat deflected the puck ahead to Kane on the right side. With defenseman Brett Pesce nearby, Kane spun left and backhanded the puck under Reimer’s arm for career goal No. 397.
“I saw I had a little space and (Pesce) was on my left shoulder so I thought it was a good chance to maybe try the spin-o-rama,” Kane said, adding: “It’s always good to see those go in. It was a big goal for us, too.”
The Hurricanes had a retro look for this one with gray, green and blue uniforms invoking their former identity as the Hartford Whalers. They also broke out the Whalers’ famed “Brass Bonanza” theme song for goals.
The Whalers played in the NHL from the 1979-80 season to 1996-97 before relocating to North Carolina, starting with a two-year stay in Greensboro before completion of their home arena in Raleigh where the franchise won its only Stanley Cup in 2006.
This was the fourth time Carolina has worn Whalers uniforms since the move.
The Hurricanes and Blackhawks were due to meet Saturday in the second half of a two-game set, but the NHL announced a schedule revision Friday morning that pushed that meeting to a to-be-determined later date.
Instead, the league moved up Tampa Bay’s March 28 visit to Carolina in a replacement matchup for the Hurricanes.
Blackhawks: With Saturday’s game at Carolina postponed, the Blackhawks continue what is now a five-game road trip with the first of two straight games at Columbus on Tuesday.
Hurricanes: Carolina plays the first of four straight games against Tampa Bay on Saturday, followed by a second home matchup Monday that closes a five-game homestead and then two road games against the Lightning next week.
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