The one sentence summary for the Hurricanes 6-5 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks is that the team reverted back to the horrors of the opening road trip.
The team easily played well enough to win for about 50 minutes of hockey and then fell apart after that. Positives include the team scoring more than 2 goals on the road for the first time since October 25, twice counter-attacking after letting the Ducks within a goal and generating a ton of offense.
But the one negative was the the team fell apart defensively when pressured in the third period to the tune of blowing a 2-goal lead late and then being unable to reclaim the lost point in the overtime or shootout.
The loss is another that stings and can be added to the list of games that will make Canes fans shake their head in March if the Hurricanes are on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
Recap of Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks
As has generally been the case recently, the Hurricanes started on time and mustered 6-7 shots to the Ducks 1 early on. What was noticeable early and actually held up reasonably well throughout the game at least until the waning minutes was that the Hurricanes were much more efficient (relative to 4-2 loss to the Ducks at home in November) getting the puck off the walls into space where they could use their skating ability to advance the puck and play some offense. But despite the decent start, the Ducks struck first on a rare instance of Jaccob Slavin being a step slow to defend a pass to the front of the net and then a step slow defending the rebound after lunging at the first shot. But less than 4 minutes later and inside the last minute of the first period, Jaccob Slavin made amends with a nifty play to kick a pass to Teuvo Teravainen on the power play who fired a laser from a tough angle past Ducks’ goalie John Gibson to tie the game at 1-1 just before the first period ended.
The second period saw the Hurricanes find a higher gear right out of the gate. Despite not scoring on a strong power play just before the midway point of the game (Skinner post, Skinner tip just wide, Teravainen whiff on open half net), the Canes maintained momentum and were rewarded shortly thereafter. First, Jeff Skinner made a nice pass to spring Jay McClement from the offensive blue line. McClement made a nice move and finished. Then only 1:25 later, Sebastian Aho finished on another breakaway to put the Hurricanes up 3-1. That would prove to be 1 of 3 different 2-goal leads that the Hurricanes would have. Next Hainsey was soft on a puck on the boards making for a pretty easy passing lane to the front of the net where none of Stalberg, Nordstrom or Tennyson could find Noesen who made no mistake from the slot. The goal made it 3-2 Hurricanes entering the third period and put Canes fans on edge knowing the struggles that the team has had closing out wins on the road.
The situation suddenly looked much better about 5 minutes into the third period when Brett Pesce beat John Gibson with a laser from up top in the middle of the ice to push the Hurricanes to a 4-2 lead. But that was only the beginning of the excitement. The trades that happened from there saw McClement not fast enough getting back and then Kesler finishing a rebound on a tip with Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey generally there but just not able to do much to limit the chance. Then Teuvo Teravainen finished a pretty pass from Sebastian Aho to again stake the Hurricanes to a 2-goal lead and unfortunately set the stage for another late collapse on the road. First, Nick Ritchie won position against Jay McClement in front of the net and tipped in a point shot. Then on a play that again saw Faulk and Hainsey in the vicinity of the puck in front of the net multiple times but unable to win it or defend it, Corey Perry pushed the game to overtime with Anaheim’s fourth goal in the last half of the game after the Hurricanes built a 3-1 lead.
The trio of Hainsey/Slavin/McClement admirably killed off a penalty to start the overtime and the teams went back and forth for the remainder of the extra session with no scoring. Sebastian Aho started the shootout right with a goal, but the Hurricanes eventually lost 2-1 in 4 rounds when the Hurricanes could not find a second goal.
‘What I’m watching’ recap
You can read the full preview HERE if you missed it.
1) Ability to play heavy and win on the walls
Up until the Hurricanes collapsed late, I actually thought this was the story of the game. The Hurricanes were much better at winning pucks and quickly getting them off the wall and transitioning into space where they could skate and attack. The result was a pretty robust offensive effort, a good amount of offensive zone time and even a couple breakaways that were finished to boot.
2) Desperately seeking depth scoring
Scoring was not at all the issue on Wednesday night. The power play netted a goal. A defenseman netted a goal. The fourth line netted its regular goal. And both Teravainen and Aho also scored at even strength. The game marked the first time that the Hurricanes had scored more than 2 goals on the road since October 25.
3) Di Giuseppe with Skinner/Rask
On a night when much of the rest of the offense was going, the Rask line was fairly quiet. It was Skinner on a partial change who sprung McClement, and Skinner also had a post and a near miss on a tip on the power play early in the second period. So I would not say that the line was bad offensively, but it was not lights out ‘great’ either.
4) Cam Ward
He was not great allowing 5 goals and then going only 2 for 4 in the shootout, but the defense in front of him completely hung him out to dry. Two goals came on tips in close and a couple more came from point blank range. In ideal world, Ward makes 1 more lights out save to preserve a win, but this is not a loss that can be pinned on him despite the 5 goals allowed.
Finnish break out: On the positive side of the ledger, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen looked very bit of the skilled depth scoring that they were thought to be before the season started. Teravainen had 2 goals and could easily have had 2 more. Aho made no mistake finishing a breakaway, asssisted on Teravainen’s second goal and also scored the Canes’ lone goal in the shootout. Also worth noting is that they were on the ice for exactly 0 goals against.
The “young team needs to learn to finish” narrative is inaccurate: Per the comment above, the Canes struggles are NOT because of the youth. Rather, they are because the veterans continue to struggle to close out games. Hainsey/Faulk with Nordstrom/McClement/Stalberg were out of the third and fourth Anaheim goals. The fifth goal was also Hainsey/Faulk, this time with Skinner/Rask/Di Giuseppe.
From good to bad: The fourth line has been a positive story of late. And Wednesday looked to be more of the same. Jay McClement notched his first of the season, and McClement and Stalberg both drew penalties. But ironically, McClement ultimately became a negative on the night despite getting on the score sheet. He was slow defending the rush making for a 3-on-2 on the Ducks’ fourth goal and then gave up inside position to for a Ducks’ tip in goal for their fourth. Stalberg and Nordstrom were also 2 of the 3 players (other was Tennyson) who failed to cover the slot on the Ducks’ second goal.
The Jordan Staal factor rears its head in biggest way yet: As I have stated in a couple other posts, Peters’ formula for the road 2 weeks back was to decouple the home strength-on-strength 5 of Slavin/Pesce with Jordan Staal’s line and instead use Staal’s line to support the lesser defense pairings. With Staal out, that duty now falls to McClement’s line and the set of Nordstrom/McClement/Stalberg with Hainsey/Faulk losing badly was a major driver of the defensive collapse. Those 5 players were a combined minus 14 on the night. Comparatively, Slavin and Pesce were a combined plus 5.
A point is a point: Thus far in 2016-17, the Carolina Hurricanes have had an uncanny ability to turn overtime loss points that are mathematically 50 percent good into something that feels 90 percent bad. But there is some solace in collecting a point on the road, pushing productively closer to the next stretch of home games and hopefully getting closer to having Jordan Staal back in the lineup.
Next up is a chance for a quick rebound and another late night for the Caniac Nation with a game in Los Angeles at 10:30pm Easter Time on Thursday.