After winning seven out of eight and playing pretty well even in the loss, the Hurricanes laid an egg for the first time in 2019. The Canes were not going to just run through the rest of the schedule with nearly perfect play, so a game like Tuesday’s was inevitable. But a Hurricanes team that gave up too much in December does not have margin for error to allow a bad game to turn into a longer skid, so critical is for the Hurricanes to quickly regroup and get back on the winning side against a beatable Senators team on Friday.
The Hurricanes were mediocre but not horrible early on. But in an anomaly, the team’s goaltending let it down a bit. First, Curtis McElhinney was beaten on what seemed like a harmless wrist shot from the blue line when McElhinney was unable to track the puck through a screen. Then he made an error later pursuing but not getting to a puck off the end boards. The result was a quick pass and shot into the net behind him. The third Rangers’ goal of the first period was more the result of the Hurricanes just being a step slow on a quick passing play. Saku Maenalanen scored in the middle of it all when a forechecking effort landing the puck on his stick for a point blank chance and finish. But the Hurricanes exited the first period with a 3-1 deficit.
The second period did not yield the rebound that the team needed. Andrei Svechnikov took another stick penalty early. McElhinney was beaten through a hole on a shot from between the circles. And the Hurricanes just generally struggled to match the Rangers in terms of pace and ability to win pucks. Uncharacteristically, the Hurricanes continued to look a step slow to lose pucks or defending in their own end early in the second period. The Hurricanes did push a bit in the latter half of the second period but were not rewarded for their efforts and were down 4-1 after two periods. A couple shots off the pipes during the period kept it from being worse in a game that really did not seem even that close.
With the Hurricanes trying to generate a miracle, the third period was a wide open affair. The Hurricanes did score on a Victor Rask shot into traffic provided by both Saku Maenalanen and Warren Foegele to pull within three goals. But on yet another play where where the Hurricanes were a step or two behind, the Rangers answered right back to push the lead back up to four goals at 6-2 which is how it ended.
Player and other notes
1) Curtis McElhinney
He seemed a bit slow to react on both of the first goals that I hung on him. He has generally been sharp for awhile now and also incredibly consistent. Even good goalies have those nights, so I think you just flush this game without thinking too much about it.
2) Saku Maenalanen and the fourth line
One of few bright spots on Tuesday was Saku Maenalanen’s two-goal outburst. Maenalanen had already established himself as a reliable fourth-liner who could forecheck and play sound two-way hockey. Now his two goals on Tuesday have him suddenly at four goals in only nine games. If he can score at the NHL too, he suddenly becomes more than a depth forward, so this situation is worth watching.
Partly maybe sending a message and partly maybe just rewarding strong play, Brind’Amour awarded extra ice time late to the fourth line of Foegele/Rask/Maenalanen.
3) The penalty kill
After surging for an extended period of time, the Hurricanes penalty kill has been touched up a bit lately. In Tuesday’s loss, the penalty kill failed on all three attempts to keep the puck out of its net while shorthanded.
4) The need to rebound quickly
As I said at the outset, a game like this was inevitable at some point. But with the Hurricanes still trying to make up for a rough December, the team’s margin for error is tiny right now. The key is to rebound quickly and not let one bad loss grow into a losing streak with the potential to lose the ground made up in the first half of January.
Next up is a Friday match up against the Senators in Raleigh.