The Carolina Hurricanes carried a 7-game winning streak into Friday’s match up with division rival Washington. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. The Hurricanes did pick up the consolation point by losing in the shootout which is a positive in the standings but a negative in terms of angst as the team’s trend of getting nowhere near their fair half share of skills competition points continued. The Hurricanes are now 2-7 in extra hockey which amounts to leaving 2.5 points on the table versus being break even and even more if you consider the possibility of winning more than a fair share.
Recap of Hurricanes 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals
The Hurricanes versus Capitals affair on Friday night started slowly with what seemed like an extended run of each team feeling the other out. The front of part of the first period and really the period in total was modest for grade A scoring chances. The Hurricanes ultimately struck first when Derek Ryan made a nice play to throw the puck to the front of the net where Jeff Skinner converted it into a goal. The assist was Ryan’s third in 2 games since joining the Skinner/Rask combination as a right wing. The period finished with the Canes up 1-0 and the shots on goal favoring the good guys by a 9-5 margin in a fairly buttoned down first period.
The game opened up a bit in the second period and not so much in a good way. The period was a lesser version of the second period disaster in terms of miscues and coverage breakdowns on Tuesday. Washington tied the game on a rare Hurricanes’ penalty kill miscue. With the puck on his stick at the offensive blue line on the rush, Viktor Stalberg seemingly missed Jay McClement coming through the center of the ice and then even worse failed to get the puck deep. On top of that the timing was bad because the failure to get the puck deep kept Jaccob Slavin who was really 2 shifts deep from getting off the ice. The Hurricanes were in a bad spot immediately. Both Canes’ forward penalty killers were behind the play as Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin flew down the ice with a head of steam right at leg-weary Jaccob Slavin. With no back pressure or support and no legs, the best Slavin could do was back up and keep the puck to the outside. That still left Ovechkin a chance to step into a shot off the rush, and he made no mistake with placement beating Ward bar in. Next, reminiscent of the Hurricanes’ inability to defend the front of their own net on Tuesday, the Capitals struck again. From behind the net, Kuznetsov made a quick pass right through Ron Hainsey and in front of Matt Tennyson who was slow to react to former-Cane Justin Williams who quickly deposited the puck behind Ward before he could adjust to the quickly moving puck. After a run of sloppy hockey that saw Ovechkin toe drag past Slavin on the way to the net and a couple other coverage issues on the rush, the Hurricanes got things back on track with Justin Faulk’s second goal in as many games. Sebastian Aho went to his regular play book pulling up inside the offensive blue line, creating a passing lane in the process and then quickly exploiting it. The second period ended with a 2-2.
The Hurricanes struck quickly in the third period on the power play when Aho made another pretty passing play finding Teuvo Teravainen who made an equally skilled play tipping the puck past Grubauer to give the Canes a 3-2 lead only 40 seconds into the third period. But the Capitals struck back when T.J. Oshie tipped a point shot down off the ice and back up over Ward’s pad to knot the game at 3-3 with just over 6 minutes remaining in regulation.
The game would go to a shootout where the Hurricanes had a ton of possession time in the second half of the overtime, managed a few shots but never really had a grade A chance and did not score. Then….curse the shootout…just curse the shootout where it only took 2 rounds for a 2-0 Capitals’ win.
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1) Continued success with strength on strength matching
The formula was reasonably successful. Ovechkin did score but it was on the power play not at even strength. Slavin did have trouble at times containing Ovechkin in the second half of the game with the biggest being the pretty toe drag move that saw Ovechkin walk straight to the front of the net. But in the end, the Hurricanes survived with Ovechkin on the ice at even strength which is a decent night.
Ward allowed 3 goals on only 22 shots in regulation which is not a great percentage, but the 3 featured Ovechkin ripping a shot bar in off the rush, another defensive break down in front of the net and an odd change of direction deflection. Ward was not bad, but by the same token he was not great either.
3) Continuation from Hainsey/Faulk
Faulk scored again and generally stayed out of trouble defensively in a good follow up game. Hainsey was victimized when Kuznetsov was able to pass the puck right through him to the front of the net for Williams’ goal.
4) Derek Ryan with Skinner Rask
Derek Ryan picked up another point on another heady playmaker’s kind of pass running his consecutive game point streak to 5 games. Ryan has now scored in 7 out of 8 games in December and continues to be an offensive catalyst.
Jeff Skinner: He had a strong game offensively and also did a pretty good job of staying heads down on hockey when the Capitals tried to get under his skin including taking a penalty on a high hit. Skinner had a goal in the first period and came close to getting a couple more. He shot up over the cross bar from in close with a little bit of net to shoot at and also had a tip on a first period power play go just wide of the net. He had a good game anyway but seemed like he was also really close to even more.
Special teams letdown: I cannot imagine this is true for more than a game or 2 all season, but the Hurricanes lost the special teams battle. The penalty kill allowed a goal on only 2 tries on the miscue noted above. The Hurricanes did match that goal with a power play goal of their own but also failed to capitalize as much as possible on 6 power play opportunities including a wasted chunk of 5-on-3 power play time. It was not by a huge margin that decided the game all by itself, but I think it is fair to say that the special teams were a negative on Friday night.
Sebastian Aho: His first assist to Justin Faulk off the rush is what makes me so excited about Aho’s future (in addition to his present). The ability to exploit passing lanes nets a very modest number of passes for scoring chances against NHL defenders who generally do not offer passing lanes. But true playmakers almost always possess a cerebral ability to create passing lanes out of nothing and quickly use them to create scoring chances. On Faulk’s goal Aho had to first make sure he pushed far enough forward to make the blue line so Faulk was onside, and then Aho had to quickly move the defender out of the shooting lane and also time it that it left a line to Faulk. If you only saw the play live, I encourage you to check out the video on the Canes’ web site. The second look is a great angle to see Aho push past the blue line and then make a quick move that opens the passing lane he uses to put the puck on Faulk’s stick.
Meanwhile in the Metro: Friday saw the Caps win of course and also the Columbus Blue Jackets push their winning streak to 8 games making the 1 point that the Hurricanes picked up less than the teams that they are chasing.
I think it is reasonable to say that despite being another lost opportunity, the OTL point on Friday is converted to a positive weekend if the Hurricanes can win on Saturday for 3 out of 4 points in 2 games.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena.