After a quiet trade deadline, the Hurricanes took to the ice in Tampa against the Lightning.
Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning
The good guys started incredibly strong and dominated play early. Then a Jaccob Slavin penalty led quickly to Victor Hedman finding the puck on his stick between the face-off circles for a quick finish. Despite the strong start, the Hurricanes were down 1-0. But to their credit the Hurricanes got right back to work, dominated the remainder of the first period and were rewarded for their effort with 2 goals. First Noah Hanifin fired through a screen for his third goal of the season. Then Derek Ryan beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from an odd angle from the outside of the face-off circle. The end result was a dominant first period and a 2-1 lead for the Hurricanes.
The Lightning did push back in the second period, but the Hurricanes did a nice job of bending but not breaking when they were being outplayed. Even when Tampa Bay controlled possession the scoring chances were modest. Despite more even play, the Hurricanes escaped the second period with their 2-1 lead still intact.
The Hurricanes buttoned things down reasonably well in the third period, but come combination of Tampa Bay being opportunistic with limited opportunities and the Hurricanes just not being able to finish ultimately led to overtime. The Lightning scored twice in the third period despite mustering only 3 shots on net. First, Tyler Johnson had a shot go off of him and into the net. Then Klas Dahlbeck and Justin Faulk failed to sort out a 3-on-2 rush allowing Nikita Kucherov to receive the puck with a straight lane to the net for a goal. To their credit, the Hurricanes again showed resiliency maybe not surprisingly when they attacked while shorthanded. First, Jaccob Slavin surprised the Lightning with a long pass that instantly created a 2-on-1 that seemed to roll off of Elias Lindholm’s stick without a shot. When that did not work Slavin put a shot on net that went through a Jay McClement screen, apparently hit McClement who was credited with the goal and hopped into the net to tie the game at 3-3 and eventually send it to overtime.
Just like the night before, the Hurricanes lost in overtime. A quick transition led to a 2-on-1 that saw Victor Hedman score a goal over Eddie Lack’s shoulder for the second time on the night.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you care to catch up on the details of the watch points the game preview is HERE.
1) Noah Hanifin
Playing mostly with Justin Faulk, Hanifin had a relatively uneventful game on the defensive side of the puck in a good way. He was the defenseman defending Johnson on his deflection goal, but the goal was more just some combination of luck and/or a good play than a Hanifin breakdown or miscue. His goal and assist are obviously significant as well, but bigger for me is that he had another pretty good game defensively which makes 3 out of 4 since being elevated into the top 4.
2) Phil Di Giuseppe
I continue to like his game and to rank him at the top of the depth forwards. The key delineation for him continues to be his ability to finish. A complete lack of production at the start of the season is what primarily led him back to Charlotte. Add a bit more goal scoring to what he is doing right now, and I think he jumps above the crowd of players on the fringe who are trying to stay above the NHL/AHL cut line for next season.
3) The new recruits – Patrick Brown and Andrej Nestrasil
I thought both players look okay but neither really stood out. My impression of Brown from preseason was that he gets the game positionally and defensively which is a great start to at least being serviceable at the NHL level. My impression based on a small sample size is that he does not quite have the acceleration and quickness that is ideal which is not necessarily catastrophic but does make it harder to crack an NHL roster in today’s game where pace is everything. Nestrasil did not stand out to me positively or negatively in Wednesday’s game.
4) Ryan Murphy
Murphy mostly stayed out of trouble which is a positive. What turns me on thinking he is destined to be traded before the start of the 2017-18 season would be if he settled in defensively and then added a puck-carrying/offensive component on top of that. The version of Ryan Murphy who gets evaluated based on whether he is good enough defensively without much else has a ceiling of a #6 or #7 defenseman.
5) Playing for pride and showing character
For the second consecutive game, I cannot fault the Hurricanes for effort and compete level. The inability to find ways to win winnable games is maddening at times, but it is important to separate execution and effort. I think the effort was there on Wednesday night.
Eddie Lack: The game had a refrain common to too many Hurricanes games over the past few years. It is not so much that I would fault Lack individually for any horribly bad goals. But on a night when the work load was light, 4 goals against felt like too many. The goalie at the other end of the rink had a tougher night and allowed less. While maybe not finger-pointing bad, 4 goals against on 16 shots certainly was not good either.
Jaccob Slavin: He picked up 2 penalties but otherwise had a strong game. The thing that just stands out with Slavin and to a large degree Pesce is how noticeably more aggressive they are on the puck than the other Hurricanes defensemen. Right or wrong, Slavin always seems to attack the puck whether it is 1-on-1, standing up at the blue line or going after a 50/50 puck with the intent of winning it. His offense is starting to come too. Increasingly, he is understanding when he has enough time to look up the rink first before settling for a simpler pass, and he is regularly finding 1-2 passes per game that create scoring chances off the rush.
Needs more offense: When you take Jeff Skinner out of the lineup and then match the Hurricanes up against a team with elite offensive players, the difference is striking. In a couple games against the Penguins this season, the Hurricanes controlled much of the game just like against the Lightning on Wednesday night. But it only took a handful of good chances for the likes of Malkin, Crosby, etc. to tilt the scoreboard in favor of the Pens despite shot metrics and/or volume of offensive zone time that suggested it was unfair. On Wednesday, the 3 leading forwards (Johnson, Kucherov, Palat) and top defenseman (Hedman) did not really drive play throughout but when given a few chances, they capitalized to the tune of 4 goals and 6 assists combined. With Jeff Skinner out of the lineup, who even are the Hurricanes 3 best offensive forwards?
Actually an okay road trip: For teams trying to go from out of the playoffs to into the playoffs, it hurts anytime you lose in overtime or a shootout and leave the extra point on the table. But even still, 2 points in 2 games is actually a respectable road trip. The problem is not the outcome on Tuesday and Wednesday in Florida but rather the rough road record overall and a couple losing streaks.
Next up is a strange Friday/Sunday home and home set that sees the Hurricanes play the Coyotes in Raleigh on Friday and then on the other side of the country in Phoenix on Sunday.