After a tough loss on Saturday night, the Hurricanes took to the ice only about 19 hours later in Pittsburgh, hoping to rebound. With Boston winning again in the afternoon, the combination of 2 Bruins wins and a Hurricanes loss in a span of barely over 24 hours had to have the Hurrianes’ hope waning. The Hurricanes put forward a respectable but not spectacular effort, and that was not enough to beat the Penguins who pulled out a 3-2 victory.
Recap from Hurricanes 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Hurricanes ‘started on time’ to use Bill Peters’ parlance. The first 5 minutes were incredibly disjointed with a number of stoppages and face-offs. I would not say that the Hurricanes were dominant, but they were the better team early. The Pens did not put a shot on net until 7:26 into the game. But the Penguins struck first on the power play. The Pens seemed to have done their homework on beating the Hurricanes ability to stack up and deny at the offensive blue line. Jaccob Slavin was beaten at the blue line basically creating an odd man rush. Brett Pesce who was in the middle of the ice did not seem to sort out who was where and did nothing to take away the passing lane to the far side where Derek Ryan was beaten by his man to the far post. When the puck zipped past Pesce and in front of Ryan, it was an easy goal. I am not sure how many days of practice Eddie Lack missed after his injury last Monday, but he did not look sharp, especially early. The first period also saw a puck trickle through his pads and into the net but get waived off by an early whistle and also a shot that beat him go off the post. But despite some near misses, the Hurricanes managed to pull even at 1-1 when Jeff Skinner stole a goal from Elias Lindholm (Lindholm’s shot was going in when Skinner deflected it on the goal line) on a pretty Lucas Wallmark pass.
The second period opened up a bit and saw the Hurricanes survive and then not survive some scrambles with the puck loose in front of their net. The third defense pairing of Klas Dahlbeck and Matt Tennyson had an especially tough night getting hemmed in their own end and spending a significant amount of time defending without the puck. After surviving a few treacherous sequences, they finally paid for it in the second period when Pittsburgh got the puck to the net, Lack spit out a rebound and the combination of Rask, Tennyson and Dahlbeck lost inside position. The Hurricanes exited the faster-paced second period with a 2-1 deficit.
Only 5 minutes into the third period, the Penguins went up 3-1 on a somewhat similar power play goal. The second Pens’ power play goal was not off the rush, but it again saw Slavin get outmaneuvered up high to create an advantage closer to the net. It again saw Pesce sitting in the passing lane but not able to figure things out quite quick enough. And it again saw a Canes forward (Lindholm in this case) a bit slow getting to an open Penguins player on the far side. A pretty tic-tac-toe passing play found Conor Sheary who finished. But some Penguins’ stick work gave the Hurricanes 3 power play opportunities and some life. When Justin Faulk scored on a fortuitous bounce off the end boards and off goalie Matt Murray’s back, the Canes were within 3-2 and with life with just over 10 minutes remaining. But the Hurricanes were unable to get the equalizer, took another loss and pushed the 2016-17 season to within inches of ending.
‘What I’m watching’ follow up
If you missed the game preview and want to catch up, you can find it HERE.
1) Rebound and recharge
The Hurricanes level of play was not outstanding, but it was not horrible. Unlike the dead legs game against the Flyers awhile back, the Hurricanes were able to find the pace and skating for the most part. Credit to the team for digging deep physically even though it did not achieve the desired results.
2) The top 4 on defense
Slavin/Pesce had a number of good shifts even when Peters could get them on the ice against Crosby’s line. But both of the 2 were front and center on 2 power play goals against that saw the Hurricanes as a group have trouble sorting things out quickly enough when the Penguins gained the blue line and attacked quickly without spending too much time setting up. Slavin was beaten our outmaneuvered at the blue line on both goals against, and Pesce was the help behind him but unable to figure out and defend the passing lane before it was used. It was not their best game. They are in fact human.
3) Character and fight
I give the Hurricanes passing marks for showing up and competing in less than ideal circumstances. It was not the team’s best game by any stretch of one’s imagination, but they did not mail it in either.
4) The Bruins
The Bruins win in the afternoon took another chunk out of the Hurricanes’ fading playoff hopes, and the loss yet another. The Hurricanes are not officially eliminated, but the season is clearly on life support at this point.
Lucas Wallmark: I thought he looked good in an audition with more scoring talent on his wings. He played most of the night with Lindholm and Skinner and had a pretty pass on the Lindholm…errr I mean Skinner goal. He had a number of other plays to get the puck on a line mate’s stick or toward the net where goals happen. I will be curious to see if he gets more run time with Skinner and Lindholm or similar higher-end forwards and how that goes. The prospect of building a 2017-18 fourth line that can score is growing.
Dahlbeck/Tennyson: They had an especially tough night. They got caught on the ice against the Pens’ higher lines and were under duress but also had trouble winning and getting the puck out of their own end against the Penguins fourth line.
Eddie Lack: I am not sure how long his layoff was, but he did not look sharp. He struggled controlling rebounds and finding loose pucks all night and just did not have the calm and control that seemed to grow in his recent winning run.
Jordan Staal: He quietly had a strong game carrying the puck and converting defensive zone lack of possession into offensive zone possession.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a Tuesday match up against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night with a celebration of Eric Staal’s 1,000th game.