The Hurricanes played arguably their best period of the year in the second frame Thursday, but it was sandwiched by two lackluster periods, leading to a 4-2 loss to Montreal in Raleigh. Carey Price made 41 saves and Montreal got two third-period goals to stay on top of the Eastern Conference. Carolina is now 13-9-1 with 27 points and has a four-point cushion over second-place Winnipeg in the Southeast Division. Here's a closer look at Thursday's loss.
1. Carolina’s second period showed what the Hurricanes are capable of. While it was not sustained for 60 minutes, that was as much about lost momentum as exhaustion. Jeff Skinner’s slashing penalty at 13:18 of the second seemed to slow the Canes, who managed to kill off the penalty and draw an Eric Staal penalty shot, but the team never seemed to regain the ferocity they exhibited in the first 10 or so minutes of the middle frame.
2. Who knew that the Hurricanes would miss Riley Nash, a player who wasn't even on the opening day roster, so much, but they did. Not to knock Nash, but it's not because he is a dominant player, but rather the role he fills and how the dominoes fall with him out of the lineup. Back at center do to Nash's illness, Jussi Jokinen was back to looking out of place. And while Patrick Dwyer’s return to the second line was a welcome move — he had the perfect screen on Jordan Staal’s goal — the lack of third line production was evident.
3. The Canes’ frustration with Montreal’s style was clear: Carolina took eight minor penalties, and all but one were aggressive infractions (two roughing, two slashing, a high sticking and a cross checking). The good news is none were on Eric Staal, who I chastised for such behavior back in late February against the Lightning. The captain stayed composed, and — even thought he was held without a shot in the third period — he led his team admirably in defeat.
Number To Know
18 — Percent success rate on the power play with Joni Pitkanen in the lineup, compared to just 7.8 percent without him. While Pitkanen only has two power play points in 13 games this season, it's clear Carolina has missed him with the man advantage. The Hurricanes are 9 for 50 with Pitkanen in the lineup, but just 3 for 38 without him (that includes 0 for 1 with him and 0 for 3 without him against Florida March 2 when he played just 6:02 total). Not only is Pitkanen a great fit on the first unit, but his absence also affects the second unit, with Justin Faulk moving up and taking some firepower off that group.
Jordan Staal — Staal spent the majority of his night shutting down Montreal’s top two lines. While he did allow Josh Gorges to get past him on the game’s second call, Staal was on top of his game the rest of the night. Two-thirds of the way through the first period, with Carolina down 2-0, Staal manhandled Montreal’s Yannick Weber after Weber hit Jeff Skinner late. Yes, it negated a power play (Weber got two minutes for interference), but it set the tone that the Habs would not be allowed to rough up Skinner. He then notched his sixth goal of the year in the dominating second period to kick off Carolina's scoring. Not a perfect night, but an illustration of the mayn facets to Staal’s game.
Alexander Semin — Semin registered a team-high seven shots on goal, but it was more about the missed opportunities he had Thursday. Semin — third in the NHL in missed shots at 41 — misfired three times, had four more attempts blocked and didn't get a point for the first time in four games. Tack on the high sticking penalty he took out of frustration that led to P.K. Subban’s insurance goal, and Semin had a night he'd probably rather forget.
Sutter, Welsh Reassigned To Charlotte; Brent Off IR
Carolina announced Friday that both Brent Sutter and Jeremy Welsh were being reassigned to Charlotte, while Tim Brent was coming off injured reserve. The team likely expects both Brent and Nash to be available for Saturday’s home game vs. New Jersey. Here's the release from the team.
‘CANES REASSIGN SUTTER, WELSH TO CHARLOTTE
Tim Brent activated from injured reserve
RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has reassigned forwards Brett Sutter and Jeremy Welsh to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). In addition, the team has activated Tim Brent from injured reserve.
Sutter, 25, averaged 8:20 of ice time per game in three games with Carolina after being recalled on March 3. The Viking, Alb., native is in his second season as Charlotte’s captain, and ranks fourth among Checkers skaters in scoring with 33 points (13g, 20a) in 52 games. Sutter (6’0", 200 lbs.) is in his sixth professional season and has scored one goal and earned four assists (5 points) in 37 career NHL games with Calgary and Carolina.
Welsh, 23, was recalled on Thursday and earned his first NHL point with an assist in the Hurricanes’ game against Montreal. The Bayfield, Ont., native is in his first full professional season and has totaled 11 goals and 10 assists (21 points) in 51 games with Charlotte in the AHL. Welsh (6’3", 200 lbs.) made his NHL debut for the Hurricanes in the team’s final game of the 2011-12 season, and has played six career NHL games with Carolina. Prior to turning professional, Welsh completed a three-year collegiate career for Union College of ECAC Hockey with 100 points (53g, 47a) in 119 games.