Feb. 16-- RALEIGH, N.C.-Sebastian Aho went over a long list of plays in overtime he would have liked to have back, starting with the breakaway he couldn't finish, even if he then nearly scored on his own rebound while sliding away from the net on his posterior.
"There's a breakaway for me," Aho said. "I've got to put that in. There was ... what else?"
He took the loss hard, personally even, and yet the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn't even have gotten the point they did without Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. They're a one-line team right now, carried by their stars in the absence of anyone else stepping in to fill the void. It just so happens that their one functioning line is an unbelievably productive one.
The SAT trio continued its hot streak, continued its run of two-way performances against the opposition's best lines and continued to be the beginning and end of the Hurricanes' offense. That line set up Trevor van Riemsdyk's goal only 12 seconds in and Aho scored the next two, including the score-tying goal with five minutes to play, cutting through the slot to put away a Svechnikov pass after a blitzing rush down the left wing.
That didn't mean much to Aho after the Hurricanes twice passed up good shots in the search for better shots in OT, Aho had his two chances and the Oilers scored on their only shot of overtime for a 4-3 win.
Still, the numbers are getting a little ridiculous. Aho's on a nine-game point streak, Svechnikov is on a seven-game streak and the team's three leading scorers on the season have a total of 15 goals and 16 assists in the past eight games. Aho and Teravainen have always had this kind of chemistry-they have combined for 28 goals this season-but the addition of Svechnikov's wild-card skill, along with Aho's development as a defensively responsible center, has taken things to a new level at both ends of the ice.
"It's not just (the scoring)," Aho said. "We want to play two-way hockey and not give them anything. One goal should be enough if we don't let them score any. We probably play against other top lines. It's always a good matchup for us."
It's a phenomenon repeated on the blue line, making the Hurricanes a one-line team with one defensive pairing. The absence of Dougie Hamilton has placed enormous strain on Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, the two combining for almost 50 minutes against the Oilers, a relatively moderate amount in recent days. Haydn Fleury has taken advantage of the opportunity, not only skating with the puck with confidence but dealing out a heavy third-period hit.
The Hurricanes are hoping someone will do likewise up front, where Ryan Dzingel, Jordan Staal, Lucas Wallmark and Justin Williams are all looking for their first goal since the break and the Aho trio has outscored the rest of the team 15-13.
Normally, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour would be looking for more balance, rather than loading up one line with his three best offensive players. But that line has been so good, it doesn't make sense to break it up, just ride it as long as it lasts.
"That's the magic question," Brind'Amour said. "I think if they continue to score, it's a no-brainer. ... We definitely are going to need everyone to contribute going forward, but right now, that line keeps scoring."
Instead, Brind'Amour's left hoping someone, anyone else gets going, or that the power play-5-for-42 over the past 17 games, 0-for-3 Sunday-can break through.
For now, the Hurricanes will go as far as Aho and Svechnikov and Teravainen can take them. Sunday, it wasn't quite far enough.
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