Game Analysis: Back To Back At Montreal, Vs. Washington

Carolina's late-season slide continued Monday and Tuesday as the Hurricanes lost both nights of their back-to-back set to fall to third place in the Southeast Division. The Canes have now lost nine of 10 games and are 11th in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes scored first against both Montreal and Washington, but came away with no points in their early week back-to-back games in Montreal and at home vs. Washington. Jiri Tlusty registered a hat trick vs. Washington and Justin Peters was credited with the loss both nights. Here's a closer look at Carolina’s two losses.

Three Observations

1. Carolina's top line continues to carry too much of the scoring load. The Hurricanes have four players with double-digit goals, and three of them are Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Tlusty. The other, Jeff Skinner, is struggling (see below). It would be easy to blame Skinner or Jordan Staal and his $60 million contract, but it's more about the team's terrible shooting percentage. Other than Riley Nash — who scores when he gets shots on net, but hasn't done that with regularity — and Patrick Dwyer, the Hurricanes aren't converting their chances. Tlusty is scoring at a clip he will probably never reach again in his career (not all that different from Jussi Jokinen's numbers in 2009-10), but his efforts are balanced by the bottom six's inability to score at all.

2. Joni Pitkanen’s injury was one of the scariest ever at PNC Arena. Pitkanen was in obvious pain after going feet first into the end boards during an icing race with Washington's Troy Brouwer. Brouwer wasn't at fault, and it doesn't appear poor ice — a problem this season at PNC Arena — was to blame either. But the NHL's continued look-the-other-way mentality about the hybrid icing debate is a valid scapegoat. Pitkanen, who suffered a broken heel bone (OUCH!), may have actually been lucky given what could have happened (see Kurtis Foster). But it doesn't change the fact that the play is avoidable all together. Like mandatory visors, hybrid icing — or even no-touch icing — is an easy call. Get it done.

3. The Hurricanes sorely miss Cam Ward. Peters lost both games, but he received little help Monday and was tossed into a tough situation when Dan Ellis was yanked Tuesday after allowing three goals on seven shots. Ellis was playing his first game since suffering a skate cut to his leg less than two weeks ago, so it's hard to blame him for being rusty. The Hurricanes just look like a different team with Ward on the shelf, even if he was not playing his best before going down with a knee injury exactly one month ago.

Number To Know

4 — Spots Carolina jumped in NHL power play standings after scoring twice Tuesday. Tlusty's two man-advantage goals in Tuesday's loss to Washington pushed the Hurricanes to 13.8 percent efficiency on the season, jumping from last place to 26th.

Plus

Brett Bellemore — Bellemore is never going to put up a lot of points (he has just 27 in his AHL career), but the 24-year-old defenseman has paid his dues in the minors and is surprising everyone with his solid play. He has been protected at even strength, but the coaching staff has relied on him to contribute on the penalty kill. He even registered his first NHL point, assisting on Carolina's lone goal in Monday's 4-1 loss in Montreal.

Minus

Jeff Skinner — Skinner was much more active Tuesday and probably deserved to be rewarded. But at the end of the day, Skinner has not registered a point in five games, has just one goal and no assists in his past 11 games, and is a minus-11 over that stretch. It's not a coincidence that Carolina is 2-8-1 in those games.

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