Game Analysis: Lighting At Hurricanes

Jeff Skinner scored Carolina's lone goal in a 4-1 home loss to Tampa Bay Tuesday. - Jamie Kellner

The Carolina Hurricanes returned to PNC Arena — to a standing room-only crowd — for their first home game in more than nine months, but they could not deliver a win in falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1. Here's the good, the bad and the ugly from Tuesday's loss.

The Carolina Hurricanes fell to 0-2 on the young season, losing to Tampa Bay in their home opener. Here are some thoughts from the 4-1 defeat.

Three Observations

1. While it only converted once, Carolina’s power play had the best puck movement that has been seen from a Hurricanes squad in, well, years. Everyone salivated over Alexander Semin’s lethal shot when the Canes signed him, but his cross-ice passes on the power play were an added dynamic that the team has lacked. The issue now becomes whether or not stacking the first unit so full of talent will make the second unit an afterthought.

2. For the most part, Carolina’s best players were their best performers. Jeff Skinner scored for the first time on the season, and both Staals and Semin had their moments and chances to score. But the team’s complementary players struggled, particularly Jussi Jokinen (no shots, two minor penalties, minus-two and a team-worst 7 of 19 on faceoffs) and Joni Pitkanen (see below).

3. Don’t panic. That’s an important sentiment right now up and down the board: from players to coaches to management to media and especially to fans. As Jason Kay, The Hockey News’ editor in chief, tweeted yesterday, the Devils started out the last 48-game season at 0-3-1 and wound up winning the Stanley Cup. I have already received plenty of tweets, emails and cries in the night about what’s needed to fix the Hurricanes. The truth is it’s not about fixing. It’s about finding a way to get in a groove and doing it quickly. Outside of a few teams, no one has really looked all that good in the early goings of the 2012-13 campaign. Yes, Carolina needs to be more physical. Yes, Carolina needs to convert at even strength. Yes, Cam Ward has to make more stops. Yes, both the forward lines and defense pairings need to come together and jell. But just like there was an overreaction to Carolina’s woeful penalty killing after the season-opening loss to Florida — an issue that seemed mostly resolved in Game 2 against a team with a lot more firepower — any panicking over one player or facet of the game in Tuesday’s loss should be put to rest.

Number To Know

38 — Combined total of Carolina shots that were blocked (23) or missed the net (15) vs. Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes still outshot the Lightning 36-26, but quantity does not equal quality, and Carolina spent most of the night throwing shots at the net without a plan.

Plus

Justin Faulk — He is, at the moment, Carolina’s most consistent player. There hasn’t been much sizzle out of No. 27, but Faulk’s steady play while eating minutes on the back end has been even better than expected. I also wouldn’t chalk it up to the "played in the AHL during the lockout" theory. Faulk is just really, really good.

Minus

Joni Pitkanen — Right now, he’s a man without a partner. He was on the ice for both of Tampa Bay’s first period goals — both times with Bobby Sanguinetti — and didn’t have nearly enough good moments to outweigh the bad. His slap pass to Patrick Dwyer was a high point in an otherwise brutal Carolina effort on opening night in Florida, but there was little about Pitkanen’s game to be excited about Tuesday. He was part of Carolina’s impressive first power play unit, but either Faulk or Joe Corvo could have probably been as effective. The best solution at the moment is pairing Pitkanen with familiar partner Jamie McBain — thus scratching Sanguinetti — and also reuniting Faulk with Jay Harrison and Corvo with Tim Gleason. Pitkanen could also fit alongside Faulk like he did in the opener.

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