Through two periods of hockey, Thursday was on track to be a doubly good day for Carolina Hurricanes hockey. First, news broke from the NHL Board of Governors meeting that Peter Karmanos had signed a purchase agreement to purchase a majority interest in the Carolina Hurricanes. The deal still needs league approval, but this time around the money is there and terms have been agreed to which makes the probability very high that the deal will close.
Then on Thursday night, the Hurricanes were on their way to a much-needed win to claw back to a respectable 1-1 record through the first third of the six-game road trip. And then all of a sudden, they weren’t.
Coming out of a lackluster loss on Tuesday in Vancouver, Coach Bill Peters shuffled the deck swapping Klas Dahlbeck in for Haydn Fleury and completely revamping the forward lines.
The new combinations worked instantly. The game featured a well-timed bout of a fast scoring start for the Hurricanes. As beleaguered as the Hurricanes offense has been at times during the 2017-18 season, the team has also had a knack for flying out of the gate on occasion and posting an early lead on the way to a win. The game felt a bit like similar wins over the Oilers, the Maple Leafs and the Islanders that saw similar scoring outbursts early in the game.
A couple nifty passing plays staked the Hurricanes to an early 3-0 lead. First, Noah Hanifin had another heady offensive play from between the face-off circles which is becoming his office in the offensive zone. He fed Sebastian Aho at the side of the crease for an easy goal. Then Elias Lindholm found Victor Rask. And then Teuvo Teravainen found Sebastian Aho for his second tally of the period. Cam Ward saw a light work load but was flawless early which was important given some of the recent struggles in net. And suddenly scoring and the game of hockey seemed easy again.
As has been the case too often this season, the second period took a step toward dicey when the San Jose Sharks scored to make it 3-1 on a shorthanded goal and then continued to push. The deciding point of the game for me was a sequence that saw Cam Ward make a huge glove save on a 2-on-1 rush, and then Skinner/Staal/Williams scored a sheer desire goal with Williams getting the puck to the front of the net and the Skinner, Staal and Williams take turns determinedly whacking at it until it was behind the goalie. That sequence saw the Hurricanes go up 4-1 instead of dropping to 3-2. That sequence became even more significant when Joe Thornton scored a power play goal through a screen late in the second period to make it 4-2 heading into the third period.
The front part of the third period had the Hurricanes playing the right kind of hockey fighting for pucks and making simple plays to push play forward into the offensive zone, but the Sharks’ third special teams strike of the game near the midway period pulled the Sharks to within 4-3 with with a power play marker. Then to add insult to special teams injury, the Hurricanes allowed their second shorthanded goal of the game near the midway point of the third period to turn an early 3-0 lead into a 4-4 game. From that point forward, the San Jose siege was on. A number of near misses and possibly the mercy of the hockey gods pushed the game to overtime.
And then what looked so promising early turned into more torture for the loyal Caniacs who stayed up until 1am. Brent Burns sneaked behind Sebastian Aho and finished on the first shift of overtime to inexplicably turn a 3-0 lead into a 5-4 loss in overtime.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks
1) Riding an early burst
As noted above, for being a team that has had trouble scoring, it has had a knack for the occasional scoring outburst right out of the gate. Thursday was exactly that with three goals in the first period.
2) Peters’ line shuffling
To be honest, when I saw Peters’ line combinations from the morning skate, they looked random to me. But be it chemistry or just creating a spark, the lines seemed to work. Each of the Hurricanes top three lines netted a goal. Sebastian Aho playing with Derek Ryan and Teuvo Teravainen could have had three or four goals. The Skinner/Staal/Williams line could easily have had more than the one Skinner scored. And Rask scored on a pretty pass from Lindholm.
3) Capitulation day for the special teams
The much-maligned power play has been a talking point all season. The penalty kill ranks slightly higher but really has not been up to snuff either relative to really strong 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns. Thursday was nothing short of a special teams disaster. The penalty kill allowed two goals on three chances. And to add insult to injury in utterly bizarre fashion, the power play also allowed two goals in three tries. (For those who did not watch the game and are reading this on Friday, you read it right. The Hurricanes power play ALLOWED two shorthanded goals on three power plays.
4) Failure to play a full 60 minutes
When the Hurricanes escaped the second period that has been an Achilles heel for them with a 4-2 lead, one had to feel good about the state of the game. But when San Jose dialed it up in the third period, the Hurricanes were unable to respond and mostly just hung on for dear life the rest of the way. The biggest story exiting the game was the Hurricanes deer in the headlights play when the Sharks challenged and team’s inability to finish.
5) The two sides of Noah Hanifin
Hanifin picked another assist from stepping up into the play in the offensive zone which highlighted his growing offensive game. But at the same time, he had a tough night defensively. He allowed an odd man rush when he stepped up at the wrong time. He had Tomas Hertl beat him one one one from the side boards straight to the front of the net. And he took away absolutely nothing in terms of passing lane on the Sharks shorthanded goal to tie the game at 4-4.
6) On the positive side of the ledger
Trevor van Riemsdyk continued his run of steady play. He was solid defensively and also picked up an assist.
Sebastian Aho had a tremendous game in terms of putting himself in position to receive and score. In scoring twice, he was actually only okay at the finishing part and could have had one or two more.
The Hurricanes did get a point on the road against a good team. If not for how it went down, that could be a positive.
After a night to sleep on the result, it will be interesting to see where this lands on the growing list of befuddling losses.
Next up is another late night affair in Los Angeles on Saturday.