Teuvo Teravainen was in for an NHL first Monday, returning to the Carolina Hurricanes locker room after a game to find a pile of hats in his stall.
The new collection came courtesy of his first NHL hat trick, his three goals powering the Canes to a 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars. The hats hit the ice in the third period as Teravainen ripped one, two, then a third shot past goalie Ben Bishop.
On a night when Finland’s Teemu Selanne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Teravainen shined. He also found it fitting that a fellow Finn, Sebastian Aho, scored his first goal of the season in the Canes’ victory.
“Of course he’s big in Finland and everyone my age has always looked up to him,” Teravainen said of Selanne. “He’s one of the idols of many people in Finland. Everyone likes him.”
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Now in his second season with the Canes, Teravainen, 23, has shown flashes of his skill and potential. There were games last season when the forward was invisible offensively, then others when his speed, puck-handling and a deceptively quick release on his shot made him a threat.
But nothing like Monday.
Teravainen assisted on Aho’s goal in the first period, a relieved Aho letting out a scream after scoring. But it was a 1-1 game entering the third, the Stars having tied the score on a power-play goal by Alexander Radulov in the second.
In third, Teravainen let a shot fly from the left wing as Elias Lindholm screened Bishop on the power play. Goal.
A little more than four minutes later, Teravainen let one go from the right wing, the puck glancing off the stick of Dallas defenseman John Klingsberg and past Bishop.
Later, strong forechecking by center Jordan Staal and Aho along the wall resulted in Teravainen getting an open shot from the slot. He didn’t miss and the ice was peppered with hats, Teravainen later saying it was his first natural hat trick since his junior hockey days.
“He was on fire today,” Aho said.
After the game, Teravainen said, “I’m more like passer; I’m not a goal scorer.” In his mind, he’s naturally suited at center, as a setup man, not on the wing.
But the Hurricanes (7-5-4) are a team in need of scoring from someone other than Jeff Skinner, who managed to get a fifth puck past Bishop in the final seconds for his ninth of the season. Aho had 24 goals last season after not scoring in the first 13 games as a rookie, and Canes coach Bill Peters believes Aho can do that again now that he’s broken through and gotten the first one.
“The guys were happy for him,” Peters said. “That thing went in and I don’t know who was happier, more collectively on the bench or himself. But he’s been playing well, and you knew it was going to come and hopefully everything now returns to normal.”
Peters has been tinkering with the lines, looking to find the right balance and consistency. Having Staal with the two Finns might be able to produce a solid scoring line – Staal’s four assists Monday were a career high.
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The Chicago Blackhawks made Teravainen a first-round draft pick 2012, and he was a valuable part of the Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup championship. Salary-cap issues forced Chicago to part with Teravainen in June 2016 as the Canes obtained Teravainen and forward forward Bryan Bickell in exchange for draft picks.
Teravainen had career highs in games (81), goals (15) and assists (27) in 2016-17. He signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason that pays him $2.86 million this season and in 2018-19.
The Canes are expecting more from him this season. Monday’s game will only add to those expectations.
“He should attack the net more because he has the ability and the skill set to do that, and the skating ability,” Peters said. “He should be a little more, I wouldn’t say selfish, but a little more attack the net, shooter’s mentality.”