Same players, different lines, same result. For the third straight game in the young season, the Carolina Hurricanes were in a position to win in the third period only to come up short, falling 4-2 to the New Jersey Devils in a rare weekday matinee.
The Canes already face an uphill climb, having registered just one of six possible points and looking at two games against defending champion Boston sandwiching a game vs. rival Buffalo over the next eight days.
1. Numbers don't tell the whole — or really any of the — story when it comes to rookie Justin Faulk. The 19-year-old defenseman is minus-6 without a point through three games, but to characterize him as a major reason for Carolina's 0-2-1 start would be foolhardy. Yes, there have been moments when the Canes' young blueliner has made mistakes, but overall he has been solid and, at times, dynamic in all three zones, plus shows a toughness and physicality rare in a player his age. The numbers will come and the mistakes will go away, but there's no way Faulk belongs anywhere other than the NHL right now.
2. Coach Paul Maurice's decision to plug grinder Chad LaRose on the first line with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner paid off when LaRose scored his first goal of the season to tie the game at 2 in the second period. But one can't help but wonder if Carolina's offensive woes (six goals through three games) could be alleviated by getting more ice time to wingers Jiri Tlusty and Zac Dalpe. Tlusty has looked more like Tuomo Ruutu than Ruutu this season, while Dalpe's continued fourth-line role gives further fuel to those who believe Maurice is unwilling to give any of last year's AHL forwards any significant ice time.
3. For my money, Johan Hedberg has been the best pure backup goaltender in the NHL since the lockout. That opinion is probably fueled by how well the Swedish netminder has fared against the Hurricanes. Now his 11th season with his fifth team, Hedberg has been as good as any goalie in the league vs. Carolina. He beat the Canes three times last year and with his win Monday improved to 13-7 in his career against Carolina.
Number To Know
16 — Faceoff wins for Staal Monday. He won 62 percent of his draws (16 of 26), pushing his season average to a much more respectable (though far from good) 44 percent through three games. It was a rock-solid effort against a team that has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the league in faceoff percentage year after year.
Bryan Allen — In his first full game with new partner Tim Gleason, Allen had arguably his best game as a Cane in the loss. Not only was Allen credited with an assist on both goals, but he and Gleason were able to keep the Devils off the scoresheet while on the ice. Don't expect an offensive explosion from Allen, but any points he gets are gravy when you consider he has a team-high eight blocked shots so far this year and is among the leaders in hits with six.
Joni Pitkanen — Frankly, his two penalties this season have both been absolute head-scratchers, the type of plays that would get a less talented player a seat in the press box. His crosscheck on Zach Parise in the second period was not only a dangerous play, but also one that was unneeded in a game tied 2-2. While this penalty, when coupled with Faulk's delay of game infraction, contributed to an unsuccessful 5-on-3 power play for the Devils, his boarding call against the Capitals Saturday led to Brooks Laich's go-ahead goal that would've been the game-winner had Jussi Jokinen not bailed out his countryman with an extra attacker goal late in that game. The margin for error is thin with the Canes right now, and Pitkanen's lack of discipline in not helping.