For nearly 57 minutes, the Carolina Hurricanes weren't exactly skating circles around the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they were doing enough to pull out a much-needed win.
By this point, you know what's coming. The Canes gave up a power play goal with 3:33 remaining to the heretofore snakebitten Nazem Kadri to tie the game, and Joffrey Lupul won it in the fifth round of the shootout to send the Canes to their third overtime loss in four games on this homestand, a 2-1 decision that tested the patience of 10,327 hardy souls at PNC Arena.
The loss, Carolina's fifth straight, drops the Canes to last place in the Metropolitan Division. Three weeks and eight games into a make-or-break November, the Canes have won one game.
"We found a way to lose again," said Kris Versteeg in a moment of candor after the game. "It's something that we're going to have to figure out here. If we could find a way to win these third [periods], we'd be in a really good position."
The Canes' late-game letdown overshadowed the quality play of Brad Malone, who returned to the ice after a four-game stint in the press box, and gave the Canes the lead 7:47 into the third period with his first goal of the season to go along with a game-high seven hits. Malone did what was asked of him, and was rewarded for his efforts.
"That's my role. I just wanted to re-establish myself" in the lineup, Malone said.
But at the other end of the lineup, there was way too much laissez-faire play with the puck. Of the Canes' 34 shots on goal, only 15 came from forwards - and even more telling, forwards were responsible for exactly half of the 64 shot attempts. Elias Lindholm took two ill-advised penalties, the second of which was a gloving violation on a faceoff and led to the power play that tied the game for the Leafs.
The power play goal for the Leafs stood in sharp contrast to a two-man advantage that the Canes earned for 1:40 straddling either side of the first intermission, in which they managed zero shots on goal.
The closest the Canes came to scoring before Malone's goal was when Joakim Nordstrom hit the post midway through the 2nd period. It was a chippy, slow, turgid affair that didn't allow for much offensive creativity from either side, a fact not lost on Canes coach Bill Peters. "Both teams did a good job being above people. There wasn't a lot of room, not much free ice. It seemed like it was sluggish, but it was hard fought."
The Canes' defense consisted entirely of American players, the first time in team history that has happened. One of the Americans on the red, white and blue line was Jaccob Slavin, who played 13:30 in his NHL debut. Peters had no complaints about how his young charges handled the game. "We like all those young kids. We have a lot of confidence in them. They didn't give up much. It's unfortunate to give up the late one on the power play, but we have three balanced pairs that can play against any of their lines."
A rematch against the Los Angeles Kings, who have already shut out the Canes once this season, awaits on Sunday afternoon. Peters says that before Sunday rolls around, they will have some work to do.
"There are obvious things that we can work on to get better," he said. "We need to eliminate some hesitation in our game."
Staring a winless homestand in the face, the Canes will need to fix those things in a hurry.