Starting with context, I think the Canes current situation illustrates how critical it is to be able to close out games that are in hand late. The Canes played reasonably well in a tough return home after a long road trip but did not get results. Then after an abysmal start, the Hurricanes went a big step worse after coming back to claim a two-goal lead only to blow it in the third period. Then throw in a loss in a seemingly cursed building, and the Hurricanes have suddenly lost three straight and are on the brink of giving back everything gained during a stellar 4-0-1 road trip. A win in Toronto on Monday would have offset the loss to Florida and had the Canes starting anew on Friday. Instead, Friday’s loss means a three-game losing streak heading into a quick turnaround and match up against the division-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Also bigger picture, we are reaching the midway point of the season when decent or better teams usually tighten things up such that the margin for error decreases. In that regard, the Hurricanes are currently trending in the wrong direction in terms of playing a cleaner brand of hockey.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers
Coming off the disappointing 8-6 loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday, the Hurricanes actually responded well. The Canes had the upper hand out of the gate and converted that push to an early 1-0 lead when Teuvo Teravainen fed Lucas Wallmark for a point blank chance off the rush. The Hurricanes kept pushing and then earned two power play chances. Despite having a few decent chances, the Hurricanes failed to capitalize. That left the door open for the New York Rangers to make a single good play to get right back into the game, and that is exactly what the Rangers did. On the power play Chris Kreider made a pretty pass from behind the net right through Joel Edmundson to Mika Zibanejad who beat James Reimer who was sitting deep in to tie the score at 1-1. That is how the first period would end. The issue with the first period was not at all the Hurricanes level of play but rather the fact that the team did not get anything to show for it in a building that continues to have a bad vibe to it.
The second period felt a bit like the bad parts of the Toronto loss. The Canes had issues with puck handling and decision-making at the offensive blue line which triggered waves of odd man rushes. The badness started when Edmundson stepped up from the point but failed to get to a puck in time. The result was a 2-on-1 rush the other way and a pretty pass from Zibanejad to Kreider for the duo’s second goal of the game. Next a puck mishandle at the offensive blue line by Martin Necas that was compounded by Jake Gardiner stepping up into the mess led to another jail break the other way. The initial rush was reasonably well defended but Gardiner and Staal got caught watching as Artemi Panarin finished from close range. The Rangers finished off a second period trifecta when a rebound on a power play point shot went right to Zibanejad who made no mistake finishing to score his second of the game and post the Rangers to a 4-1 lead. The Hurricanes finally answered when Wallmark made a pretty pass to Brett Pesce who finished bar in off of the rush. The late goal in the second period gave the Hurricanes life heading into the second intermission despite the tough second period.
The Hurricanes would make things even more interesting when another heady Teravainen pass found Sebastian Aho’s stick in front for a pretty tip to pull the Hurricanes within 4-3. But the Rangers tightened up a bit, and Henrik Lundqvist had the answer on a couple good Canes chances to hold the fort. The Rangers bought breathing room when Pesce missed a swipe at a dump that gave Panarin a chance to win a race. Panarin then passed the puck right through Edmundson to the front of the net where Ryan Strome finished to put the Rangers up 5-3.
Very often hockey is not a game about who makes the most good plays but rather who makes the most bad plays. The Hurricanes poor play in the second period was the difference.
Player and other notes
1) Lucas Wallmark
Wallmark continued his scoring ways with a snipe of a finish off the rush and also a pretty pass for a primary assist on Pesce’s goal. It is a mere consolation prize in a loss, but Wallmark was the Hurricanes first star.
2) Teuvo Teravainen
Similarly, Teravainen continued his playmaking ways with two pretty primary assists. First, he found Wallmark off the rush. Then he had yet another pass to the front of the net for a pretty tip goal for Aho.
3) Joel Edmundson
Generally steady Joel Edmundson had probably his worst game in a Hurricanes uniform. He was right in the middle of much of what went wrong. The Kreider pass on the first goal went right to the front of the net through Edmundson. The Rangers second goal occurred when Edmundson picked a bad time to step up and triggered a jail break in the other direction. The Panarin goal to seal the game late also saw a pass go right through Edmundson to the front of the net. And he took a penalty along the way. The Rangers top players feasted in this game, and to a large degree it was Edmundson serving them. For as steady as Edmundson has been of late, best is to just flush this one and start fresh on Saturday night.
4) James Reimer
Reimer has had consecutive games where the defense in front of him generated too many messes, so by no means can either game be hung on Reimer. But at the same time, he was not great in Friday’s loss. He seemed a bit slow read plays and react such that he spent most of the night deep in net mostly doing the same as a wooden cutout. The first goal happened quickly, but if he had been able to get out even a tiny bit, the finish would have been tough from so close. The same was true with the goal mouth scramble goal and multiple other chances. He just seemed a half step slow reading and reacting all night.
5) Losing the battle of the bests
Largely by capitalizing on Canes miscues, the Rangers best forwards, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, bested the Hurricanes best players (especially the defensemen).
6) A chance to drive home a point
Even when the 2019-20 Hurricanes are playing well and winning, the number of errors has been high. And during the winning road trip, a familiar theme was the Canes penalty being stellar and wiping away too many penalties. The Hurricanes just lost consecutive games in which the opponent capitalized on both power plays and errors by the Hurricanes. One silver lining could be a better chance to get the players’ attention and finally start to clean some things up.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround with Saturday being the first of two games between the Hurricanes and Capitals at PNC Arena within the next week.