On Sunday night in Vancouver, the Carolina Hurricanes managed an improbable repeat of what happened on Thursday night storming out to a 3 goal lead only to collapse, give up the lead in regulation and then lose in overtime.
One would never have guessed it based on a challenging start that saw the Hurricanes unable to even move the puck deep enough into the Vancouver zone to even forecheck, but once the Hurricanes managed to warm up the engine, things clicked offensively for the second consecutive game. The shots on goal were 9-2 in favor Vancouver early when the Hurricanes generated a couple good scoring chances and converted them to goals with some well-placed sniping. First, Victor Rask and Lee Stempniak worked well together in small space in the offense zone culminating with a behind the back pass from Stempniak and a finish off the far post and in. Shortly thereafter Teuvo Teravainen had a rebound land on his stick on the power and finished from nearly the same angle as Rask’s goal. The Hurricanes then started the second period and maintained momentum. When Justin Faulk joined the rush and finished his own rebound, the Hurricanes were suddenly up 3-0 after surviving a very slow start thanks in significant part to the play of Eddie Lack.
Unfortunately, the 3-goal lead seemed to trigger the same frenetic attack by the opposition as Thursday and a similar result. First, when Justin Faulk sent the puck around the boards and was slow to defend the puck coming back at him, Canes killer Bo Horvat made it 3-1. Then a more egregious Faulk turnover in his own end followed by his failure to find the right player in the crease made it 3-2 early in the third and officially made it a white-knuckler. Then a late power play goal by Vancouver on a blast through traffic on the power play made it 3-3. Things actually got worse from there with Jordan Staal taking a penalty and only a couple great saves late from Eddie Lack pushing the Hurricanes to overtime. But a failed Jeff Skinner attempt to attack the net early in overtime led to a partial 2-on-1 the other way. Jaccob Slavin played it fairly well and Rask hustled to get back into the play, but Brandon Sutter ripped a shot off the rush and beat Lack to finish it at 4-3 Vancouver.
‘What I’m watching’ points
1) Eddie Lack
Eddie Lack was strong out of the gate holding the game at 0-0 early despite the fact that his team was being outplayed an outshot. And though he was eventually touched for 4 goals, he stood tall during extended stretches both early and late in the game when his team was being outplayed by a significant margin. He also made a couple huge saves in the waning minutes of regulation to at least climb into overtime and earn the consolation point. The situation is likely to change multiple times over the course of the season, but based on 1 outing each for Ward and Lack, Lack is officially the starter for now after an overall positive effort despite the result.
2) Better attention to detail
For the second consecutive game, a solid night in terms of offense, scoring and at least 30 minutes of play was trumped mightily by a significant volume of breakdowns that cost the Hurricanes a point in the standings. I think a key component of the current problem is the Canes inability to match intensity and deal with pressure when an opponent on the ropes starts playing aggressive and desperate. The first goal saw Justin Faulk play the puck around the boards for a harmless turnover until he failed to defend the puck coming at him. The second goal against was a horrible turnover by Faulk that was reminiscent of the Jeff Skinner miscue on Thursday. And the final goal also had a match from Thursday as Lack was beaten through a screen when the Canes defense failed to move a player from the crease. Lack covered a few other late mistakes including Jordan Staal taking a late penalty in the neutral zone.
This trio netted another goal when Rask and Stempniak worked together nicely in a small space with the final result being a behind the back pass from Stempniak to Rask who sniped it home. This line continues to be a huge positive offensively and so far looks capable of being the top scoring line that the Hurricanes need.
Teravainen picked up a power play goal and added a heady defensive play in the third period, but 5-on-5 this line was quiet again. Lindholm deserves credit for settling into the center position nicely and playing sound 2-way hockey, but he continues to seek any kind of dynamic offense/scoring element.
5) Jakub Nakladal
Coach Bill Peters went back to Klas Dahlbeck again on Sunday night, so we are left waiting for our first look at Nakladal in the lineup.
Justin Faulk: He was again right in the middle of the action. On the positive side, he had a goal and an assist in addition to being on the ice for the other Canes goal. But on the negative side of the ledger, the first 2 Vancouver goals that let them back into the game both started with puck on Justin Faulk’s stick and a turnover. The first turnover was not bad when he chucked the puck up the wall on the penalty kill, but his reaction and positioning played a big role in Bo Horvat being able to walk right in and mostly snipe away uncontested. The second goal was even worse when Faulk turned the puck over in his own end for a bang-bang goal against. Justin Faulk deserves credit for contributing to the offense, but for this team to make progress, he will also need to be a core part of sound and solid play closing out wins.
Jaccob Slavin/Brett Pesce: I thought they were the team’s 2 best defenders. I would not be surprised if Pesce’s shot stats are ‘meh’ because he seemed to spend a huge amount of time stuck in his own end, but he was generally solid and ‘big oops’ free. Jaccob Slavin also had a strong game. His greatest strength continues to be his incredibly fast 0 to 15 feet away quickness/burst that is useful for retrieving loose pucks, closing gaps, making up for minor positioning issues, etc.
The power play: It looked good again on Sunday. The Hurricanes now have 3 power play goals in 2 games and continue to look very good in terms of moving the puck and creating chances. Teuvo Teravainen notched his first goal as a Hurricane when he snapped home a rebound on a Justin Faulk shot.
Next up is a trip to the new building in Edmonton and the Carolina Hurricanes first game against Connor McDavid who missed both of last season’s match ups due to injury.