The summary level recap for the Hurricanes 2-1 loss in Ottawa on Saturday reads very much like the loss in Montreal on Thursday. The Hurricanes came out strong and were the better team out of the gate, and the team played a generally solid game throughout that could have garnered a win on some nights. But the triple combination of not catching any real breaks, inability to score and a couple miscues that led pretty directly to goals against doomed the good effort.
Recap of Hurricanes 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators
Just like on Thursday night in Montreal, the Hurricanes ‘started on time’ and quickly mounted an advantage in shots on goal and possession time. The Hurricanes were rewarded at about the midway point of the first period when a Jeff Skinner chip sprung Sebastian Aho down the left side. He made a heady play to rush the puck to the front of the net, well-timed to meet Jordan Staal and an Ottawa defenseman who were arriving at the same time. The puck went off of goalie Craig Anderson and then off the Ottawa defenseman and into the net for a not so pretty but very heady goal for Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes would exit the first period with that 1-0 lead despite giving up the lead in shots on goal in the second half of the period.
The second period saw the Senators get on the board when Sebastian Aho whiffed on defensive coverage in the slot seeing Dion Phaneuf walk right around him, have time to pull the puck back to his forehand and tee it up and then shoot through a screen by Justin Faulk who was caught in no man’s land trying to help after Aho was beaten but ultimately only screening Cam Ward. The second period was the most buttoned down of the 3 but still saw a few good chances for the Canes.
The third period was a back and forth affair with both goalies being forced to make some good saves. As the clock pushed deeper into the period, overtime and at least a consolation point looked probable, but that was taken away with only 3:32 remaining in the game by another defensive miscue. This one saw Jaccob Slavin get turned around a bit by speedy Kyle Turris who skated right between Slavin and Pesce blazing a path to the front of the net where he made no mistake beating Cam Ward. The Hurricanes generally played a solid third period and created some chances both before and with the extra attacker on the ice but ultimately were unable to tie the game.
The loss marks 2 games in a row in which:
* The Hurricanes played fairly well but lost.
* Generated a reasonable amount of scoring chances but only 1 goal.
* Saw both of the opponents’ goals come on defensive breakdowns.
The level of bad has been nothing even close to the October struggles, but the Hurricanes do need to both tighten things up and produce more offensively.
‘What I’m watching’ recap
In case you missed it, here is the preview for Saturday night’s game.
1) The leadership
No one truly donned the cape that might have won a hockey game on Saturday night, but at the same time the leadership of the team played pretty well. Cam Ward was solid allowing only 2 goals on point blank chances following defensive breakdowns. Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner both figured in Sebastian Aho’s goal and played decent games. And Justin Faulk continued his run of strong play.
2) The goaltending
Cam Ward had an interesting night. I thought he was quick, aggressive and good all night on first shots, but at the same time, I thought his rebound control was sub-par. I cannot remember another game in recent memory when the volume of rebounds he spit out to potential scoring areas was so high. But when you net it out, Ward gave up 2 again on a night when he was tested and gave his team a chance to at least get into overtime.
The interesting question now is whether Coach Bill Peters will give Ward a night off in the second half of the back-to-back on Sunday.
3) Players rising up
Like the leadership, the Hurricanes generally played well, but no one really rose up above the crowd. A recently surging Lindholm played okay but did not crack the score sheet. The same is true for Justin Faulk whose game continues to be encouraging especially defensively, but he was unable to net or assist on a difference-making goal.
4) Overdue third line
Saturday’s lineup saw Brock McGinn scratched in favor of Andrej Nestrasil but the same results. With the Hurricanes struggling a bit offensively in the past couple games and looking at a continued run of tough match ups, secondary scoring from the third line would really help. Peters already made 1 move for Saturday. It will be interesting to see if he shakes things up further by shuffling lines or possibly recalling Phil Di Giuseppe from the AHL.
B+ with a couple errors not quite good enough: When I net out the past 2 games, the Hurricanes were not bad. In fact, they were reasonably good. But they were B+ not A kind of good without the ability to finish and with a couple too many miscues that led directly to goals against. Most of what the Hurricanes did in the past 2 games is useful in building a successful road model, but the team does need to find more sources of scoring and also tighten things up a little bit.
Sebastian Aho: The goal really was a testament to his heady play. He rushed a bit to get the puck to the front of the net because he realized the importance of timing its arrival with Jordan Staal and the Sens’ defenseman. If he instead tries to make a pass or get a little bit better shooting angle, the probability of anything good happening decreases significantly. Instead, he netted a not too pretty but really smart goal.
Jay McClement: I think that fact that he is playing well for what he can do is actually holding the Hurricanes back. Because he has been part of a league-leading penalty kill unit and his line has generally played well of late, he continues to be cemented in the C4 slot and is even seeing more ice time. But he just brings too little in terms of either finishing ability of playmaking. Especially with the team sputtering a bit on offense lately, I think the Canes could get more out of the C4 slot and the wings around it with a more offensively-capable option.
Noah Hanifin: I really like the Joni Pitkanen that is showing up in his game on an increasing basis. Hanifin does have room to improve defensively, but 1 of his greatest strengths should be his ability to create and attack offensively with his skating. That element of his game is encouraging.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a quick turnaround and a return to PNC Arena for a 6pm start on Sunday against the Florida Panthers who also played and traveled on Saturday night.