Thursday night saw the Carolina Hurricanes try for 6 in a row. The opponent was the same Montreal Canadiens team that the Hurricanes beat with a third period flurry in Raleigh last Friday but significantly with an upgrade in net.
Recap of Hurricanes 2-1 loss to the Canadiens
Whereas last Friday’s game saw the Canadiens as the dominant early and through the first 2 periods, the Hurricanes actually had the better of a tight checking game early. The Hurricanes had the better chances in the first 10 minutes, and the rest of the first period was pretty even after Montreal dialed it up. On the scoreboard a well-placed shot by Elias Lindholm off the rush put the Canes up 1-0, but a couple small miscues by Noah Hanifin and Matt Tennyson evened the first period at 1-1. First Hanifin skated with a Montreal player to the outside, but he failed to take away the passing lane to the front of the net. And Tennyson was generally in the right place but gave up inside position to Andrew Shaw who quickly received a pass and deposited behind Ward.
The Hurricanes were again the better team by a modest margin in the second period but were unable to crack Carey Price who was flawless on the night getting beaten only by Lindholm’s perfectly placed shot inside of a 6-inch box in the far side corner of the net.
The game was decided when a fairly harmless play off the opening face-off put the Hurricanes down 2-1 which would be the final score. In a play harkening back to tougher times earlier in the season, Cam Ward failed to get against the post and left an opening just big enough for Max Pacioretty to shoot from behind the end line, off Ward and in. The Hurricanes had 2 power plays late, but Price had an answer for everything they could muster.
The loss was the reverse of the win against Montreal earlier in the season. The Hurricanes were the better team through most of the game and dictated play through much of the game. But whereas it was the Hurricanes who found a couple big plays in the earlier win, Thursday saw the Canadiens muster a couple of plays while the Hurricanes were unable to make a big individual play or catch a lucky break when they needed it.
Peters tried to play some games to get some favorable match ups to generate offense. Jeff Skinner saw shifts on all 4 lines, and Sebastian Aho also played in multiple slots. I think the aim was to get Jeff Skinner on the ice in a few favorable situations on the road. Peters attained the match ups but not the desired scoring results.
As far as losses go, this one was far from horrible. The Canes were in the game throughout and had a chance late against a very good home team and arguably the best goalie in the league on a good night. The key is to rebound quickly with at least 2 points if not more in the back-to-back set this weekend.
‘What I’m watching’ check in
If you missed it and want to catch up, the preview for Thursday’s game against Montreal is HERE.
1) Soundness and patience
Overall, I thought the Hurricanes played a pretty sound game though it was in fact a couple of mistakes that led pretty directly to both Montreal goals.
2) Cam Ward versus Carey Price
Just like with #1, I would rate this as a small loss. Ward really had no chance on the first goal, but the game-winner was on him. Price was pretty much perfect getting beat only on a shot labeled for the extreme far corner. Price saw the heavier and slightly more challenging workload and bested Ward. That said, I like the way Ward responded to the miscue. He played very well in the third period and made some tough saves to give his team the full period to try to claw back to tied.
I would not get bogged down in this. Ward’s 2 goals against were not horrible and though the 1 goal was a bad 1, it was the first such goal he has given up in some time.
The key is for Ward to just stay on the same track he has been on and put up a strong outing in his next start.
3) Leaders rising up
Before the game, I said that it would take a player or 2 from the Canes leadership group rising up to beat a great Canadiens team on home ice. I thought Faulk and Staal in particular played well on Thursday, and I do not think Skinner’s game was a bad one. But they just could not muster the couple big plays needed to convert this game into a win or at least an overtime loss with a point in the standings. But it was not for lack of effort or volume of ‘almosts’. Faulk finished with 7 shots on goal, Skinner 4 and Staal 2 trying to dent Price who has been incredibly good this season.
When I look at the 3 check points, the result is pretty similar across all 3. The Hurricanes were not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they missed just slightly on all 3 counts. Against a top team on the road that is tough to overcome for a win.
Brett Pesce: He was arguably the Canes best player. He had at least 2 if not more plays where he broke up passes that could have been dangerous scoring chances, and he just missed when he rifled a shot just wide after stepping into the play joining the rush.
McGinn/Ryan: The duo continues to play decent hockey but also continues find the score sheet elusive. Neither player has a goal in 5 games at the NHL level, and Ryan has mustered the duo’s only scoring point with an assist.
Elias Lindholm: He had another strong game scoring the lone goal, drawing a penalty in the third period and filling a role on the Canes’ penalty kill.
Jay McClement: His lack of finishing ability hurts in games like this. He and his line have been playing well in terms of generating more decent scoring chances than is normal for a fourth line, but as the recipient of many of those chances in the slot area, McClement is still goal-less. He also took his third penalty in the past 2 games on Thursday night.
The missed call on the Skinner trip: The missed call when Jeff Skinner was tripped about midway through 1 of the third period power plays was unfortunate because it was so blatant and was right in front of the official. It seemed to very clearly be the old school mentality of letting things go when a team was already on the penalty kill.
The key is to move forward and get back into the win column. With a challenging set of opponents primarily on the road, it is important to rebound quickly and not let 1 loss grow into a losing streak that gives back all that the team gained winning 5 straight. The Hurricanes will get a chance to do this with a Saturday game in Ottawa followed by a quick turnaround with a home game on Sunday against Florida to close out a busy week.