For the second consecutive game, the greatest positive from a Hurricanes standpoint was that regardless of how bad it is, a game can only count for 1 loss.
Recap of Hurricanes 7-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins
For anyone who checked in late or only caught the score, it might be hard to believe but the Hurricanes actually had a tremendous start. Through 6-7 minutes of hockey the Hurricanes absolutely dominated play during a stretch to match just about any they have played this season. The Hurricanes were relentless on the forecheck and chasing down loose pucks such that the ice was tilted into the Hurricanes offensive zone. But Murray held the fort early and the Penguins managed to gradually match speed and intensity and get their feet under them. After seeing how the game ended up, one has to wonder if the game would have played out differently if the Hurricanes were rewarded with a goal early. At the point when Trevor Daley fired a shot past Cam Ward from just above the face-off circles after a lackadaisical turnover when Teuvo Teravainen tried unsuccessfully to flip the puck out of his own end from deep in his own zone. Despite the goal against and the 1-0 deficit, the Hurricanes exited the first period certainly still in the hockey game.
By about the midway point of the second period, the Hurricanes were no longer in the hockey game and came completely unraveled along the way. Cam Ward had trouble with rebound control and had multiple times when he had trouble even figuring out where the rebound went and also was beaten with 2 goals that trickled through his pads. Teravainen had another turnover that resulted quickly in a goal against when his man scored from in front of the net on a rebound. Elias Lindholm had 2 chances to score in close but did not. Jeff Skinner took not 1 but 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The power play sputtered as bad as ever. And the Penguins smelled blood and attacked with the goal and the result of finishing off the Hurricanes early. The second period saw the Hurricanes out-shot by a wide 17-9 margin and exit the period with the game all but over at 5-0 Penguins.
The third period was not any better. Victor Stalberg, who was 1 of a handful if that who had a strong game, finished a nice breakaway shorthanded goal, but otherwise the Hurricanes were manhandled to nearly the same degree in the third period as they were in the second period. The Penguins added 2 more goals to put up a full touchdown in advance of the Steelers’ game on Sunday.
‘What I’m watching’ recap
If you missed it and want to catch up, my game preview is HERE.
1) The goaltending
I would NOT hang this game completely on Cam Ward. From late in the first period on, the team in front of him was not good either. That said, it was another sub-par outing from Ward. He seemed to be fighting the puck all night spitting out rebounds regularly and having trouble finding even those. Multiple goals leaked through him, and his inability to either control or track rebounds also contributed to the problems. Murray’s night eased up after the early barrage, but he was incredibly good at the end other end of the rink and was a difference-maker when he team needed it.
2) Tightening up defensively and marking the Penguins’ elite forwards
As noted above, the play in front of Ward was sub-par too after the fast and furious start fizzled midway through the first period. But oddly it was not so much Crosby and Malkin dominating play. Rather, the Hurricanes badly lost a match up of third lines largely due to a tough night for Teravainen handling the puck in his own end.
3) Resiliency for the leaders
The Hurricanes failed most miserably in this regard on Friday. After not being justly rewarded for 7-8 minutes of strong play, the team imploded, and it was an especially tough night for a couple of the team’s It was a tough night for the team in total and also the leaders. Skinner was buzzing early and then took 2 frustration unsportsmanlike penalties when things needed holding together and instead unraveled in the second period. Ward took a frustration penalty of his own after a third period goal when he used his blocker to clobber Patrik Hornqvist who was on his back.
A good team must do much better sticking to it for a full 60 minutes even if things are not going its way early.
Adversity very clearly reared its ugly head this week. It will be interesting to see how the team responds on Saturday.
Teuvo Teravainen: Tough night with the 2 bad turnovers at the point when the outcome was still very much to be decided.
Victor Stalberg: Ideal would have been to save it for a more important time, but he scored another pretty shorthanded goal when got a jump with the puck, fended off a Penguins’ player and finished shorthanded.
Elias Lindholm: He had the puck on his stick in a high danger scoring area twice in the second period when it still mattered. On the first, he ran himself out of room and was poke checked. On the second, he shot off the side of the net.
Peters benches Skinner and Teravainen in the third period: Neither player was in the mix in the third period – Skinner seemingly because of 2 bad unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and Teravainen seemingly for 2 bad turnovers in his own end when the game was still to be decided.
Perspective: As bad as Friday’s game was, it only counts for 1 game. With a win Saturday, the Hurricanes would salvage a 1-2 week which is obviously not great but in a tough week against tough opponents, it would not be catastrophic.
Some of the concerns that I voiced in my article before the Columbus game entitled “Readying for the road – Are fun wins hiding a growing problem on defense?” are bubbling up. Those who voted in this week’s goalie polls expecting a Leighton start on Saturday now look more likely to be right.
The Hurricanes are right back on the horse tomorrow at 5pm in Columbus. We will not likely know until tomorrow, but I suspect that we will see Michael Leighton in net. That combined with the need for a win and watching how the team responds after Friday make it well worth tuning in for.