The Carolina Hurricanes loss to the Boston Bruins just before the trade deadline featured a sluggish Canes team that had played and traveled the night before starting slow, making mistakes, digging a hole and losing 4-1 despite a late push. The Canes started slowly again on Thursday night in Boston. It was not so much about pace and skating legs as simply sloppy play and inability to move the puck out of their own end. The result was a first period that saw the Canes hemmed in their own end and unable to generate anything offensively 5-on-5. But unlike the previous loss, the Canes were pretty good in survival mode in their own end and even built an early lead with a Elias Lindholm goal on a heady Noah Hanifin pass.
The second period actually started worse. The Canes took 2 penalties in the first 5 minutes and had 2-3 breakdowns for breakaways and/or grade A scoring chances against. Another good single play about midway through the second period saw the Canes FINALLY pick up their first (and second) even strength shots on goal and also match Boston’s second period goal to go up 2-1. Chris Terry made a nice move and pushed the puck off Tuuka Rask and right to Nathan Gerbe who finished in the crease. The Gerbe goal seemed to finally find the ignition switch offensively at even strength. From that point forward, the Canes played an even game and challenged Tuuka Rask multiple times in the in the second half of the game. A turnover at the blue line with 1 defenseman caught deep led to a 2-on-1 and a soft goal with Cam Ward cheating off the post to pull the Bruins back even at 2-2.
That set the stage for an even and competitive third period. The Canes had multiple good scoring chances in the period but the game pushed to overtime and set the stage for another exciting win and a great ending for the Canes and Boston homecomer Noah Hanifin. On a play that saw Hanifin play the puck back to Ward for a line change coupled with a bad line change by Boston, Hanifin found the puck back on his stick with a straight line to Jeff Skinner at the blue line. Skinner did not finish but matching Skinner’s burst into the offensive zone was Phil Di Giuseppe who whirled and deposited the rebound into the Bruins net for a 3-2 overtime win.
A few player and other notes:
1) Noah Hanifin
He continues to make good offensive plays with the puck on his stick at an incredibly high rate. His assist on the Lindholm goal had more to it than a simple pass. He had crept up which made him dangerous and delayed as if to possibly shoot when he received the puck. The result was that when Lindholm received the puck between the circles, he had plenty of time/space to fire a good shot and ultimately score. He had another pretty pass in the offensive zone that found Nathan Gerbe at the opposite side post for a grade A scoring chance. And of course he had the assist on the game-winner. He is still young and improving at 19 years old, but he is tracking toward being the high-end playmaking defenseman that the Canes have rarely had.
2) Chris Terry
He quietly had a solid game moving pucks forward and doing little things throughout, but more significantly he seemed to be the ignition switch on a slow night. He led the rush to the net and made the big play to set up Gerbe’s goal that seemed to finally get the Canes going nearly halfway into the game. On his next shift, he was the forward who carried the puck in, dumped it deep, retrieved it behind the net and fed Hanifin at the point for the pretty pass to Gerbe that almost put the Canes up 3-2.
Especially on the road against good teams, that pairing is the 1 that opposing coaches will try to pick on matchup-wise and the Bruins did get their top 2 lines on the ice against them at times. The third pairing did get hemmed in their own end a few times, but they were generally sound and therefore survived. Murphy logged 19:16 of ice time and Jordan 16:55 (difference was basically Murphy’s 2ish minutes of power play time) and neither was on the ice for a goal against. Having the bottom part of the roster, especially defenseman, hold their own is critical to winning against good teams on the road. Jordan/Murphy accomplished that on Thursday and in the process contributed to a big win.
4) Phil Di Giuseppe
Good for him getting rewarded on the score sheet with the game-winner. He has proven to be much more of a multi-dimensional player than I expected when he was first called up. His goal was a perfect example of being the player best able to match Skinner’s pace that I wrote about earlier this week HERE. On the game-winner, Skinner burst into the offensive zone alone after receiving Skinner’s stretch pass but Di Giuseppe had the smarts and the wheels to be a closely trailing second and was rewarded with the rebound opportunity and goal.
4) Minus 5
It is astounding to think that the Canes are doing what they are doing right now minus 5 of 10 players who would have been considered in the top half of their roster only 2 weeks ago with Justin Faulk and Andrej Nestrasil out with injuries and Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles gone in trades. The people who have checked out early and/or are tied up with the start of March Madness are missing an absolutely great Canes story right now.
Next up is a 1pm matinee start in Buffalo on Saturday and a chance to go a perfect 3-o for the week.