First and foremost and following a common theme from game recaps, results matter, and through two games of a three-game holiday week home stand the Hurricanes now 0-2.
But to quickly lump this game with the loss on Wednesday would be inaccurate. Whereas Wednesday’s loss had very little in terms of redeeming value, Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Maple Leafs was at least equally frustrating but actually had a decent volume of good.
The first period was one of the team’s best periods of hockey in recent memory. The Hurricanes tilted the ice into the offensive zone, collected a good number of scoring chances and even had a decent amount of pucks and traffic around the net at the same time. Sebastian Aho whiffed (unclear if the puck bounced on him or not) and also a shot from his recent favorite place inside the face-off circle. Teuvo Teravainen had a chance from right in front of the crease that seemed to glance off goalie Frederik Andersen’s stick and just wide and also a shot through traffic. Justin Faulk fired at will. Victor Rask had two chances from point blank range. The power play was even good despite not scoring. And the defense was solid probably mostly because the Hurricanes mostly played with the puck and did not have to defend much. When the first period ended, the Hurricanes very easily could have been up anywhere between one and three goals. Instead, the hockey gods seemed to be on holiday break, failed to award the Hurricanes anything for their dominant period and allowed the period to end 0-0.
And sure enough the Maple Leafs somehow climbed onto the scoreboard first with a goal less than one minute into the second period. The first goal was a tough sequence for Cam Ward. First, he retrieved a dump in behind the net and seemed to intentionally send it around and past Justin Faulk to where two Leafs players were waiting to retrieve the puck on the boards. Then he inexplicably morphed into a defenseman and chased the puck wide of the net such that the Leafs player actually fed the puck back to the crease from a hole between him and post since he had wandered so far wide of the net. The Hurricanes actually responded well to the first goal against but again were still not rewarded for their effort. Next came what might have been the first mistake by the blue line in a game that had otherwise been significantly better than Wednesday’s disaster. Trevor van Riemsdyk got caught up in the offensive zone and Noah Hanifin was nowhere to be found covering the middle of the ice or the space behind him. The result was that a simple flip of the puck into the neutral zone led to an uncontested path all the way to the net for Josh Leivo. Leivo beat Ward who seemed to be off his angle to the far side to stake the Maple Leafs to a 2-0 lead midway through the game despite deserving nothing close to that. Whereas the Hurricanes continued to push after the first goal against, they seemed to sag after the second Maple Leafs goal. When former Hurricanes player beat Ward from the face-off circle, the Maple Leafs were off the races. Adding insult to injury, Ward allowed one more goal on a tough bounce that saw the puck go off the post and then off the back of his pad and into the net. Ward was pulled after the first period in favor of Ron Darling. The Hurricanes did tack on one goal in the second period when an individual play saw Jeff Skinner kick a puck from almost behind him to his stick and then saw him win a puck at the side of the net from where he fed Derek Ryan who finished. After 20 very good minutes of hockey in the first period, the Hurricanes more or less imploded in the second period via a few mistakes, a couple bad breaks and no fairness from the hockey gods.
To the Hurricanes credit, they never quit and actually made things very interesting in the third period. Sandwiched around another missed assignment defensively that saw Patrick Marleau tap in a power play chance from in the crease when he found a space behind Jaccob Slavin, the Hurricanes scored finally burst out for a three-goal third period. Jordan Staal finished when a Justin Faulk shot caromed directly onto his stick. Elias Lindholm scored from right in front of the crease. And Noah Hanifin beat Andersen with a blast off the rush to pull the Hurricanes within 5-4 with 4:11 still remaining in the game. After pulling the goalie, the Hurricanes had a boat load of offensive zone possession time and multiple shots toward the net. The puck seemed to bounce very direction possible when headed toward the net but never found the twine behind Andersen to tie the game.
In many ways, the Hurricanes deserved better on Friday night especially in the first period. But at the same time, the game was another of a series of games that illustrates how much difference goaltending can make. Last weekend, Darling and Ward were both phenomenal and led the Hurricanes to wins that they probably did not deserve. Thus far this week, the Hurricanes netminding has been suspect and combined with shoddy defense at times has led to two frustrating losses.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Even factoring in Friday’s game, Cam Ward has been a positive on the season in total in his new role as a backup goalie. But he had a tough night on Friday. When a team dominates play and does not score, the pressure mounts both on the team to break through offensively but also for the goalie to hold the fort despite a minimal amount of work to find a rhythm. When called upon in the second period, Ward really did not have an answer. The first goal that saw him inexplicably wander wide of the net chasing the puck was even worse on replay when it was clear just how far he wandered and cringe-worthy seeing the centering pass go between him and the post. Then the second shot just seemed to beat him. The Hainsey shot might have been screened, and that last goal off the goal post and then off him and in was mostly just bad luck. But just like Darling’s glove miss on Wednesday, the two goals to stake Toronto to a two-goal lead were enough to alter the trajectory of the game.
Better but maybe not good enough
In total, I thought the Hurricanes blue line which has struggled with too many break downs in recent games was somewhat better. But though the sheer volume of break downs was reduced, the few they made were big ones and seemed to find the back of the net with 100 percent certainty. The fact that I have watched the replay of the first Toronto goal three times and still am not sure where Hanifin was is telling. And Slavin letting Marleau behind him literally in the crease led to a goal where the goalie had zero chance. In total, I would call Friday’s game a small step in the right direction but still with plenty of room for improvement.
Sometimes you have to just shrug and push forward
Despite the fact that there were some self-inflicted wounds in the Hurricanes 5-4 loss on Friday, there was also an element of just not catching a break. With any luck the Hurricanes could have had a couple goals in the first period. Twice when the Hurricanes pulled within two goals, the Maple Leafs scored next with a little bit of luck. First was the shot off the post and then off Ward and into the net in the second period. Second was the Leafs’ play goal on a really ‘iffy’ goalie interference penalty on Skinner. And then in the waning moments, the Hurricanes had any number of chances that could have found the net but just did not.
Victor Rask and Bill Peters
After two games as a healthy scratch, Victor Rask returned to the lineup. He had a couple good scoring chances in the Hurricanes dominant first period. In total, he was not so much a difference-maker, but he had a decent first game back in the lineup. Credit to Bill Peters for reinserting Rask into a situation where he could impact the game playing in the top 9, receiving 14:10 of ice time and also playing on the power play.
The loss on Friday amps up the urgency to an even higher level on Sunday when the Hurricanes will try to at least net one win from a holiday week with all three games at home.
That next game is a 1pm matinee at PNC Arena on Sunday against the Nashville Predators.