Coming off a short burst of scoring that was enough for a 3-2 win in Columbus on Thursday night, the Canes looked to build a winning streak down the stretch. Saturday night in Raleigh saw a match up against an Isles team that is nearly certain to make the playoffs but needs to do better than it’s 1-4 record in its past 5 games to get there.
While it was not as bad as some other recent efforts, the first period was meh/lackluster for the Canes. In terms of shots and possession, the period was only a modest loss, but in terms of good scoring chances, the Isles got the better of it. Jeff Skinner did ring a post, but overall the Isles had more chances. The 2 goals against were not so much a function of the Isles advantage as a couple mistakes. First, Eddie Lack had a bad angle shot carom off his stick and up and over his shoulder into the net for a soft goal. Later in the period, Justin Faulk shot right off Nikolay Kulemin’s shin guards and behind him. Kulemin raced to the puck and made a nice move to finish in alone on the goalie.
But after falling to a 2-0 deficit at the end of the first period, the Canes responded in the second period. The Canes’ pace was better and they also opportunistically attacked a struggling goalie in Jean-Francois Berube. First, Victor Rask finished from in close after Chris Terry made a great play to win a 50/50 puck following a face-off and then crash the front of the net. Next Jeff Skinner was rewarded for buzzing around the entire period with a goal. And then Jay McClement cleaned up a leaky rebound when Ryan Murphy got the puck to the front of the net. The Canes exited the third period with momentum and a 3-2 lead.
But the Isles scored on the first shift in the third period and despite a good number of chances for the Canes, the third period closed with a 3-3 tie. Another high adrenaline overtime saw both teams race up and down the ice and get chances per usual and a tough break see the Isles win late when a shot headed wide of the net deflected off of Jaccob Slavin and into the net.
Player and other notes:
1) Jeff Skinner
He was the Canes best player on the night buzzing around and being that offensively dangerous version of Jeff Skinner shift in and shift out all night. He collected only a single scoring point on his goal but easily could have had more.
2) Noah Hanifin and the future
Noah Hanifin had not 1 but 2 plays in which he carried the puck from the defensive zone to deep in the offensive zone and then had enough speed to chase down a rush the other way on the same shift. The first time was in the first period, and the second time saw him rush up the ice in overtime and barely miss winning the game with a shot off the post. His upside continues to be immense, as he is rapidly learning how to convert his skating ability and vision with the puck on his stick into offense.
2) Chris Terry
I am not sure if/where he fits for 2016-17 and forward, but if positions are to be rewarded on merit and actual play down the stretch in the 2015-16 season, he is making an incredible case right now. He ran his points streak to 5 games with an assist on Victor Rask’s goal, and it was not the random ‘he touched the puck variety.’ His effort won a 50/50 puck after the face-off. Then he got the puck to the front of the net. Then he created the screen/chaos that Rask shot through in scoring. He had other offensive plays and also avoided defensive ‘oopses’ on the path to another strong game.
3) Better night for Ryan Murphy overall
He played a role in Clutterbuck’s tying goal early in the third. He had a delayed penalty coming on Clutterbuck on the rush and could have been better defending the puck behind his net, but coverage should also have been better in front of the Canes net too. But that play aside, he had a much better game. It was the first game in awhile where he used his skating/puck moving ability aggressively and effectively. The McClement goal was largely the result of a goaltending mistake, but you still have to give Murphy credit for getting deep into the offensive zone and then getting the puck to the front of the net.
4) Patrick Brown’s 2015-16 debut
Playing his first NHL game this season, Patrick Brown did not look out of place. He did not wow with a huge offensive performance but finished checks and was okay defensively.
5) Riley Nash
He had a quieter game and did not get on the score sheet, but was good nonetheless. He was 5 for 5 in the face-off circle, was the screen on Jeff Skinner’s post in the first period and was a plus 1 on the night. His fearless play on Brock Nelson in overtime that saw him go flying into the goal post kept the Canes in the overtime longer. Like Terry, Nash continues to make a case for a next contract.
6) Overtime starting to feel like the shootout of old
After running out to a 3-0 record in the new overtime format, Canes fans had significant reason for hope that many fewer games would end the cursed shootout and that the Canes would be much more productive in this new format. Since then, the Canes are 5-11 in overtime and 8-11 for the season. Ugh!
Next up is a quick turnaround and an early 5pm start on Sunday at PNC Arena against the New Jersey Devils.