The well-traveled Carolina Hurricanes lost a hard fought battle to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night, 4-3. The Canes had plenty of chances and put heart and soul into their effort, but their inability to win key faceoffs and an inefficient powerplay were major reasons why they failed to win the game.
The Kings were a well rested team and had not played since Friday, while the Hurricanes had flown over 10,000 miles in the past two weeks and had just played in San Jose the night before. Regardless, if not for a fluke goal which bounced in after it hit the back of Justin Peters' stick, the Canes could have easily gotten at least a point for their efforts.
Los Angeles started the scoring on a Ryan Smyth goal just 5 minutes into the game. But a red hot Chad LaRose would score his second goal in as many games to tie things up on a perfect laser shot which bounced in off the crossbar. The goal had to be reviewed, but was confirmed.
Later in the period, Eric Staal broke free on the right side and lit the lamp as he beat Jonathan Bernier on a nice shot, reminiscent of the shot which beat Martin Brodeur and eliminated the Devils in the 2009 playoffs.
But unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the scoring was not yet over in the period.
With just a few seconds left in the first period, there was a faceoff in the Carolina zone. While Staal battled, he eventually lost the faceoff and the Kings ended up scoring right afterward. There were just 9 seconds left on the clock. The goal was a back-breaker and a momentum killer and you could sense that Staal was disappointed about it during his interview between periods. At the time, the team had won just 4 of 18 faceoffs.
In the second period, Anze Kopitar gave the home team the lead with a nicely placed shot over Peters' shoulder, but the Canes kept fighting. Later in the period, Jeff Skinner would finally score his first ever NHL goal as he backhanded a rebound from an Anton Babchuk slap shot under Bernier.
The rookie has come close so many times that everyone knew it had to happen eventually. Will the floodgates open now?
Both teams went into the third period with the score tied at 3, but early in the period, Kings center Andrei Loktionov set up a play behind the Carolina net. The Russian rookie then scored his first NHL goal when he sent a puck toward the crease which hit the heel of Peters' stick and bounced in the net.
It didn't require a fraction of the hard work and effort that Jeff Skinner had to do to get his first goal, but it still counted.
The tired Hurricanes would not give up though. They fought and battled and put a number of shots on the Kings goalie, while buzzing in the home team's zone at times, almost in a frenzy. But lady luck was not on their side as they could not beat Bernier the rest of the way.
The Canes out-shot the Kings that period, 15-6. Also of note, the Canes had two powerplay chances in that decisive third period, but they could not convert. After the game, Paul Maurice called the powerplay "slow moving".
The Hurricanes will now take a day or so off in Los Angeles before flying to Phoenix on Friday for a game against the Coyotes on Saturday night, which will finally closeout this roadtrip.
Quick hits and stats:
- It seemed like the Canes deserved a better fate. Justin Peters played very well and made several first class saves. It was a bad break on that game winning goal, although it looked like that was exactly what Loktionov was trying to do. Still, it was unusual. Peters ended up making 23 saves on 27 shots.
- Carolina had a total of 30 shots, led by Erik Cole and Jeff Skinner who had 4 each. Cole had a wide open breakaway that he could not finish. He has been able to generate a few of those this year but has yet to score on one.
- The Canes were 0-3 on the powerplay, the Kings were 0-4.
- While Eric Staal played a terrific game and won second star honors, he had a really tough night in the circles as he won just 24% of his faceoffs, (7 of 29). The team was 37%.
- Tuomo Ruutu had a team high 5 hits and also won 9 of 15 for 60% of his draws.
- On Skinner's goal, he first held the puck in the zone along the boards as Erik Cole grabbed it and fed it to Babchuk, who fired it at the net. The rookie then wasted no time as he beat his man to the net and banged in the rebound. He worked very hard and deserved that one.
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