Game Analysis: Coyotes At Hurricanes

Rookie Riley Nash played 13:02 in his NHL debut, a sign that new coach Kirk Muller is allowing his young players to learn on the ice. (Photo by Jamie Kellner)

For the first time this season, the Carolina Hurricanes lost in regulation after leading heading in to the third period, blowing a two-goal lead and falling to Phoenix, 4-3, at the RBC Center. Tuomo Ruutu, Andreas Nodl and Jiri Tlusty scored for the Canes, who outshot the Coyotes by a 37-19 margin.

Carolina now sits at 10-19-6 with 26 points, ranking last in the Eastern Conference and 28th in the NHL.

Three Observations

1. New coach Kirk Muller continues to give Carolina's young call-ups a chance to make their mark. The latest was Riley Nash, who played 13:02 minutes Wednesday (all at even-strength) in his NHL debut. Drayson Bowman, in the fourth game of his recent recall, has played at least 17 minutes in the last three games and tied for the team-high in shot attempts among Carolina's forwards with seven (three were on net). It is a huge difference from the recent Paul Maurice era, when young players were often buried on the fourth line to play minimal minutes.

2. The Canes are just 2-6-2 under Muller, but it's already clear they're playing a better brand of hockey. Witness Ruutu's first-period goal: Jussi Jokinen's slap pass found Alexei Ponikarovsky for a shot in the slot, but he wasn't the only one crowding Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera. Ruutu was also right in front, and he easily collected the errant puck to tie the game. The Hurricanes' willingness to create more traffic is evident under Muller, and it has served them well. The Canes are scoring 2.90 goals per game under Muller (a 0.5 increase over the 2.40 they had in the first 25 games), an average that would rank them right around the top 10 in the league in scoring.

3. The meeting between the Coyotes and Hurricanes saw six people with head coaching experience behind the bench. Muller, whose career as a head coach is still in its infancy, is joined by Dave Lewis (head coach is Detroit and Boston) and John MacLean (head coach in New Jersey). Long-time NHL bench boss Dave Tippett is assisted by Jim Playfair (head coach in Calgary) and John Anderson (head coach in now-defunct Atlanta). They are the only two teams in the league to feature three coaches with head coaching experience.

Number To Know

64 — NHL scoring rank for Carolina's top point-producer, Jeff Skinner. The sophomore has 24 points in 30 games and has missed the last five with a concussion. Only Colorado's Ryan O`Reilly (23 points in 35 games) and St. Louis' T.J. Oshie (23 points in 33 games) have fewer points among the league's team leaders. Eric Staal and Jokinen are tied for second on the team in scoring with 20 points in 35 and 32 games, respectively.

Plus

Jay Harrison — The Carolina defender looked no worse for wear in just his second game back since missing 10 with a concussion. He led the team with eight shots on goal and attempted eight more, plus had a team-high three hits. His secondary assist on Tlusty's goal gives him 10 points in 25 games this season. That total matches the career-high 10 points he had last season in 72 games — 47 more than he has played in 2011-12.

Minus

Cam Ward — Ward is not solely to blame for the four goals that got by him Wednesday, but on a night when the players in front of you nearly double the shot total of the opposition, you need your goaltender to stop more than 15 of 19 shots. The biggest error came in the third period, when his attempted poke check of Lauri Korpikoski left Rostislav Klesla an open net to tie the game.

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