Facing a tougher test against a New Jersey Devils team that is scratching and clawing for every point it can get to win the battle for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the Hurricanes tried to extend their three-game winning streak. The Hurricanes took punches but also counter-punched in a back and forth game.
The game started with the Hurricanes on their heels early. New Jersey attacked and had the better of play in the early going, but Scott Darling was sharp out of the gate and held the fort early. What was most noticeable in the early going was Darling’s crispness in terms of tracking the puck controlling rebounds. New Jersey did score first when a Darling rebound caromed right to Pavel Zacha’s stick, but I would still say that his first period was strong overall. After a start that saw the ice tilted into the Canes defensive zone early, the team surged late in the first period. Phil Di Giuseppe labeled a shot off the rush after a nice play by Jeff Skinner to win and advance the puck at the offensive blue line and a nice pass and then screen from Elias Lindholm. Then Warren Foegele scored his second goal in his second NHL game from an odd angle just like his first goal. After a slow start, the good guys emerged from the first period with a 17 to 13 shot advantage and a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard.
The second period started evenly but then saw the Devils surge again as the period wore on. Darling had another good set of saves early but was eventually touched up for a power play marker by Kyle Palmieri to tie the game at 2-2. The Hurricanes would survive and exit the second period tied at 2-2, but the momentum had shifted back to the Devils by the end of the period.
When a flurry of activity by Jeff Skinner in the offensive zone ended with a point blank chance and finish by Noah Hanifin, the Hurricanes were suddenly in the driver’s seat up 3-2 with 16 minutes remaining in the game. From that point forward, the Devils seemed to just increasingly dial up the intensity and come in waves. New Jersey out-shot the Hurricanes 13 to 5 after the Hanifin goal and eventually broke through. First was a nifty power play tip on which Darling had little chance. Then Stefan Noesen capitalized on the fact that Darling started spitting out rebounds as the third period wore on to score with 1:33 left in the game to push the Devils to a 4-3 victory.
Notes from the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 loss the New Jersey Devils
1) Special teams
The 4-3 loss can be dissected a few different ways, but in terms of charting the goals scored, the Devils had a two-goal advantage on special teams which just like this game can often be the difference in a close game. Jaccob Slavin’s run of somehow being in the middle of seemingly every power play goal against continued. He was on the ice for both New Jersey power play goals and (needs to be confirmed Wednesday morning when stat sites update) and as now been on the ice for an astounding 40 power play goals against out of 42 allowed by the team this season.
Warren Foegele showed his inexperience on the penalty kill two. His length, quickness and aggressiveness still project well to be a good penalty killer at the NHL level like he has been at lower levels. But Tuesday’s game showed him still at a level where he is defending players and not angles and passing lanes. The result too often in these situations is that elite NHL playmakers and shooters use the narrowest of openings to score goals.
From watching Slavin closely (but not finding the time to go back through a bunch of video), my assessment is that Slavin has exactly the same issue defending more like he as a man to mark than locking down the cross-ice passing angles that leave players to snipe at goalies trying to move across the crease.
2) Elias Lindholm
He continues to impress at the center position. My initial thoughts on Lindholm as a center were twofold. First was that the team needs help at right wing more than center making Lindholm more valuable there. Second was that as a defense-leaning player with modest offensive abilities that Lindholm’s skill set was too much of what the Canes already have in spades at the center position. I have not completely abandoned this line of reasoning, but his play at center has me more open-minded about him at center. The sample size is small but right now Lindholm has played a significant role in making Phil Di Giuseppe look like a completely different player offensively. Lindholm has also meshed well with Skinner which is not the easiest thing to do. As such, I continue to watch Lindholm closely.
3) Scott Darling
He did give up a rebound goal in the first period, but I thought he played well in total in the period, and I also thought he had a different air of sharpness about him early in the game. He also held the fort in the second period when the Devils pushed for a second time. In the end, his four goals against is not spectacular statistically, and rebound control played a big part in the first goal and was a problem in the third period. But whereas most of his 4-5 goals against games were just bad with almost nothing for positives, I actually put this game in a different category for Darling. He looked sharper in total and more like it just did not work out not so much that he played poorly.
4) Noah Hanifin
His scoring pace has lowed a bit of late, but reaching 10 goals is a solid number for an NHL defenseman. When I review his 2017-18 season, Hanifin’s development offensively will be a key positive for him.
5) Bad penalties
The Hurricanes were sloppy at inopportune times in terms of taking penalties. Phil Di Giuseppe took an offensive zone penalty that led to a goal against in the second period, and Valentin Zykov took a penalty while on the power play leading the the Devils’ third goal.
6) All good things must come to an end
After scoring a late empty-netter against Ottawa on Monday to extend his points streak, Sebastian Aho was quiet and held off the score sheet on Tuesday. His line in total was much less of a factor than it has been the past couple games. The game illustrates the importance of having a second scoring line and good offensive depth on the road where opposing coaches can focus on and sometimes lock down a top scoring line.
7) Warren Foegele
Another goal is obviously a good thing, and I continue to really like Foegele’s game at even strength. He is strong on the walls largely because he always keeps his skates churning, and he closes space on the forecheck and in the neutral zone in a hurry. To be honest, I do not think he is ready yet as a penalty killer. He sags too much, and was unsure what to do/indecisive when he had two forwards with one high on his side. To be clear, he still projects to be a strong penalty killer in the future, but he could benefit from some time in the video room in terms of getting there.
Next up is a Friday match up against the Washington Capitals.