Canes coach lauds PNC Arena crowd for supporting the anthem singer — and the team

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Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour knew something good was cooking inside PNC Arena on Saturday well before captain Jordan Staal glided to center ice for the opening faceoff against the Vancouver Canucks.

With the Canes looking to rebound from their worst game of the season, Brind’Amour made a few minor changes to the lineup — inserting Jordan Martinook in place of Derek Stepan at forward, and Joey Keane on defense in place of Ethan Bear.

But it was a moment during the arena’s ritualistic pregame routine that gave the Canes coach pause — in a very good way.

Asked after the 4-1 win over the Canucks what his favorite part of Sunday’s game was, Brind’Amour started to give a canned answer.

“That it was a win,” he began with a shrug.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Martin Necas (88) celebrates his goal with teammates Tony DeAngelo (77), Ian Cole (28) and Andrei Svechnikov, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Carolina Hurricanes’ Martin Necas (88) celebrates his goal with teammates Tony DeAngelo (77), Ian Cole (28) and Andrei Svechnikov, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

But then Brind’Amour stopped. His eyes lit up and opened wide and he allowed himself a smile when he remembered a particular moment that had nothing to do with game play, but everything to do with setting the table for the Saturday matinee: the Canadian national anthem.

“You know what I really liked was, during the national anthem, when the young girl kind of had a little problem with the Canadian national anthem, and the whole crowd helped her out to finish it,” Brind’Amour said. “To me, that’s impressive. I don’t know if, did you see that? Good job to the people that were here. I don’t know if this gets out to them, but that set the tone for the day for me.”

The gesture by the still-arriving crowd in the minutes before puck drop made Brind’Amour, and likely several of the players, pause. Those fans are, in part, for whom the team is playing. And it was those fans who watched the team struggle mightily in a 6-0 loss to Columbus less than 48 hours prior to the start of Saturday’s game.

And yet there they all were again, ready to pick an anthem singer up after a stumble; ready to do their best to lift the team up after its Thursday setback.

“Almost every night is a full rink, and when they see us losing 6-0, that’s not a good sign, you know?” Canes forward Martin Necas said Saturday. “We don’t want to let this happen two games in a row. You know maybe it could happen once a year — we don’t want this to happen once a year, but if it happens, don’t make it twice.”

Necas did his part against Vancouver, scoring a goal for his 100th career NHL point — on his birthday, no less. And his line — including Vincent Trocheck and Andrei Svechnikov — accounted for two of the team’s four goals, with Trocheck adding a goal and Svechnikov racking up two assists.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Steven Lorentz, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Brett Pesce (22), Jesper Fast (71), Brady Skjei (76) and Jordan Staal (11) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Vancouver Canucks in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Carolina Hurricanes’ Steven Lorentz, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Brett Pesce (22), Jesper Fast (71), Brady Skjei (76) and Jordan Staal (11) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Vancouver Canucks in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The line was also a physical force, accounting for 11 hits between them, an important part of finding balance in their game.

“It’s been a while for us to find a good start in a game,” Svechnikov said. “I was really focusing on that, on the first shift, find a hit or something like that, just to get myself going.”

It worked. Brind’Amour noticed that, too.

“It can’t just be flash, you’ve got to have the grit and the grind part of your game because the National Hockey League is so hard,” Brind’Amour said. “And tonight I thought they brought that. You’re not going to have that kind of results every night, but if we want to be successful as a group, and if they want to be successful players, that’s how we have to play.”

Speaking of grit, whether it was inspired by the crowd’s stirring rendition of the anthem and their ability to nurture and support a singer in need, or any other hockey-related forces, the Canes’ first line fed off that energy. From the drop of the puck, Staal, Jesper Fast and Steven Lorentz were a collective ball of energy and pinned the Canucks deep for the better part of a minute.

“We weren’t happy with the game before, and those guys set the tone right away and how we wanted to play,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s the way we need to play.”

The Canes’ next chance to make their mark will come on the road against another opponent known for bruising and banging: the Boston Bruins. The road game — assuming it’s played — will mark the first time in more than a month that the Hurricanes will play three consecutive regularly scheduled games without dodging a postponement due to COVID protocols.

Suffice it to say, the Canes are ready to get back to some semblance of a normal routine, especially after Thursday’s stinker against Columbus.

“It’s not an easy game to play, you know, 82 of these in the regular season, to play like that, it’s hard,” Brind’Amour said.

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