Dan Ellis was shelled for the second straight game, and the Hurricanes were blanked for the third time this season in a 5-0 loss to the Lightning. The loss pushed Carolina, once the comfortable leader in the Southeast, to four points back in the division race with fellow slider Winnipeg and surging Washington. Here's a closer look at Thursday's loss.
1. Thursday's disheartening defeat felt like the death rattle for the 2012-13 Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina played a spirited first period and carried the play, even scoring a disallowed goal late in the frame. But Teddy Purcell's goal just 28 seconds into the second period was a dagger to the Hurricanes’ momentum. Ellis rightfully took the blame after the game — yes, he allowed five goals, but the others held wide-ranging blame — and has proven to be the standup veteran the Canes need in Cam Ward's absence. But actions speak louder than words, and Carolina needs a complete 180 starting Saturday to have any chance at a playoff berth.
2. It seems likely that Chad LaRose and Tim Brent will not be back next season. The duo played less than 22 minutes combined and were nonfactors. The same can be said for Marc-Andre Bergeron and Joe Corvo, who as a rental and one-year signee, respectively, don't fit in the long-term plans. But those are all role players, so the question becomes how does GM Jim Rutherford improve his team that, on paper, looks like a playoff contender? The top line has been spectacular, and Jordan Staal is here to stay. Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu are struggling to produce points, but do you even consider moving two of the franchise’s most well-liked and game-changing players? Chances are, Rutherford will trim the fat on the edges, drop Ryan Murphy in Bergeron’s role, and hope that a young player or on-the-cheap free agent can add a little more toughness to the back end. It's hard to fault what Rutherford has done to improve the team, but results need to happen in the final 12 games this year and/or the first 20 of 2013-14 to avoid bigger changes.
3. Skinner drew another penalty Thursday and again ranks in the top five in the NHL in penalties drawn per 60 minutes. Skinner finished second in the NHL in his rookie season at 2.6 penalties drawn per 60 minutes, then led the league last year at 2.5 per 60. His numbers are down at bit this year (2.2, good for seventh among players with at least 25 games played), but Carolina’s moribund power play has not capitalized often enough.
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Drayson Bowman — Bowman is pretty mild-mannered — even stoic — but he left everything on the ice Thursday. He had a team-high four hits and also six shot attempts (three on net) despite playing just 12:47. Bowman’s scoring has never lived up to its billing, but his evolution into a reliable checker and energy player was one of Thursday's few bright spots.
Marc-Andre Bergeron — If Bergeron is not on the ice for at least one goal for a night, he is a liability. That's not news. But despite being one of only five players not to register a minus Thursday, he was Carolina's shakiest player. He was consistently hemmed in his own end, turned the puck over several times (the score sheet crediting him with just one giveaway is a joke), and wasn't able to spark the Hurricanes' power play. Bergeron is, on most nights, a feast or famine player, and Thursday exhibited the latter.