Game Analysis: Back To Back At Rangers, Vs. Penguins

The Carolina Hurricanes finally snapped their losing streak, but it wasn't accomplished without adversity. The Canes stumbled in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Rangers, allowing four third-period goal in a 5-1 loss, then blew a 3-0 lead in the final frame to Pittsburgh before rallying for two late goals to get back in the win column.

The Hurricanes sit 13th in the Eastern Conference at 6-8-3 with 15 points. Carolina plays every other day for the next week and their next six games are all against teams ahead of them in the standings.

Three Observations

1. It was good to see Carolina overcome their blown lead against Pittsburgh, but it doesn't wash away the fact that the team has been a mess in the third period this season. The Canes have been outscored 27-17 in the third this year, including 7-2 in this weekend's two games. It's hard to pinpoint where Carolina goes wrong in the final frame. The team is probably guilty of not taking enough chances through 40 minutes, leading to tight games that can swing with one goal. Such was the case against New York, but Saturday's game against the Pens saw Carolina give up three unanswered before Eric Staal factored in the games final two scores to lead the Canes to victory.

2. Moving Staal to the wing for Saturday's worked in the sense that he registered a goal — the game-winner — and an assist, but overall you can't say it made a huge difference in chances for Carolina's captain. The difference, of course, was Staal finally breaking through after coming so close so many times. Regardless of his output and his line's configuration, Staal continues to draw tough matchups and thus opens the door for the Finns & Skins line to take on lesser defensemen. On nights when Carolina has two scoring lines that can be a constant threat, they will be tough to beat.

3. Cam Ward continues to keep Carolina in games every night. The final score of either game doesn't reflect it, but Ward has been the Canes’ most consistent player night in and night out. Yes, there are mistakes at times (his turnover vs. the Rangers, for example), but he has been able to keep the Hurricanes in tight games. If Carolina can give him more support with early goal scoring — the team hasn't scored two first period goals with Ward in net since Oct. 14 vs. Buffalo — they should find a way to get a couple easy wins instead of consistently ending up in tight third periods.

Number To Know

36 — Hits for Patrick Dwyer this season, second on the team to Ruutu. Dywer has just two assists this season, but he has been a key part of Carolina's penalty kill and the shutdown line with Brandon Sutter, plus he has upped his physical play despite being an undersized forward.

Plus

Tuomo Ruutu — Ruutu has quietly scored six goals this season, including two Saturday against the Pens, but more importantly he seems to be back to his hard-hitting self. He had a team-high six hits against Pittsburgh, making time and space for linemates Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen, and was tied for the team lead in shots in the loss to New York.

Minus

Anthony Stewart — In all fairness to Stewart, he hasn't been given much of a chance. But his time in Carolina hit a new low when he was scratched for the Pittsburgh game after going minus-2 with no shots in 8:02 of ice time against the Rangers. Stewart was once considered a potential linemate for Staal, but instead he has been little more than a fourth liner. At $900,000 a year for this season and next, Stewart's contract looks more like a burden than the expected bargain.

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