Game Analysis: Blackhawks At Hurricanes

Radek Dvorak congratulates Ron Hainsey on his game-tying goal Tuesday at PNC Arena. It was Hainsey’s first goal since his days as an Atlanta Thrasher. - Grant Halverson

The Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to force overtime against the defending Stanley Cup champions, but fell short in the shootout when Chicago's Patrick Sharp scored the lone goal to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 win.

Alexander Semin and Ron Hainsey scored third-period goals to erase Chicago’s two-goal lead, but Patrick Sharp notched the only score in the shootout to send Carolina to its third overtime loss of the season, 3-2. Cam Ward made 34 saves as Carolina fell to 2-2-3 on the year.

Three Observations

1. Kirk Muller and his staff made an essential switch in the second period, moving the defense-first pairing of Brett Bellemore and Hainsey out of rotation with the Eric Staal line. In their place, Jay Harrison and — more importantly — Ryan Murphy started to see time with Carolina’s top offensive trio, and it lit a fire under the line and the entire team. As I mentioned prior to the game here, the Haisey-Bellemore pairing had done little to drive the offense and was perhaps holding back the first line, which has struggled to create offense through seven games. While those who know way more about advanced stats than me will point out that Bellemore’s Corsi ranking would say otherwise, it was clear that the addition of Murphy’s dynamic offensive abilities sparked the top line Tuesday, at least for two periods.

2. While Murphy was the offensive catalyst for Carolina’s comeback, he did make the same mistake for the second straight games when he took a too many men on the ice penalty for touching the puck before the player he replaced had left the ice. In 48 games last year the Canes took just four bench minors — the penalties aren't assessed directly to Murphy, but rather the team's bench — but already have two in seven games this season.

3. The Canes outhit the Blackhawks 31-20, led by Tuomo Ruutu’s six and Brett Sutter’s four. While it was a physical effort from the team, Carolina is still lacking some snarl, as evidence by the team’s relative disinterest in sending a message when Ward was whacked at after the whistle on a few occasions. No one’s asking for the Canes to turn to brawling as a tactic a la the Maple Leafs, but Ward’s teammates need to show they will protect him when needed.

Number To Know

122 — games Hainsey had gone without a goal before tying the score Tuesday with a point shot that snuck between Corey Crawford’s legs. That was two jerseys ago for Hainsey: he never scored in 103 games as a Winnipeg Jet, and you have to go back to the Atlanta Thrashers’ penultimate season to see his name on the goal ledger.

Plus

Cam Ward — With Carolina down 2-0 due to two defensive miscues (see below), Ward kept Carolina in the game with several highlight-reel stops while the Hurricanes climbed back to tie the game and force overtime. Unfortunately for Ward, the Canes failed to notch a goal for the second time in the shootout this season and he walked away with an overtime loss for the third time. With Anton Khudobin injured, the burden of stopping pucks for Carolina shifted solely to Ward starting with Tuesday’s game, and the Canes’ No. 1 netminder answered the bell.

Minus

Brett Bellemore — Bellemore saw just one shift in the final 21:47 of the game as Carolina mounted its comeback. His benching goes back to both of Chicago’s goals: First, Sharp’s tally saw Bellemore let the Hawks sniper slip past him on a breakout pass, resulting in a 1-0 deficit. Then less than three minutes later — with Eric Staal in box after a silly penalty — Bellemore failed to clear the puck from the Hurricanes defensive zone and Marian Hossa eventually got a backhand shot in the slot past Ward for a two-goal lead. It's been a rough couple games for Bellemore after a strong start, and with both Mike Komisarek and an almost-healthy Tim Gleason looking over his shoulder, his spot in the lineup is not assured.

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