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Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Devils

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Eric Staal scored twice for the Carolina Hurricanes, but the Devils took advantage of their fortunate bounces in earning a 3-2 win in New Jersey.

Eric Staal’s two goals weren't enough to puch Carolina past New Jersey in a 3-2 loss.
Eric Staal’s two goals weren't enough to puch Carolina past New Jersey in a 3-2 loss.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey scored twice in the third period to vault past the Hurricanes, 3-2, Tuesday at Prudential Center. Eric Staal scored both Carolina goals in the loss.

Three Observations

1. You can sugarcoat Carolina’s loss by saying New Jersey had some luck on their side Tuesday, with all three goals going in off of inadvertent deflections. But the fact remains the Hurricanes entered the third period of a crucial division road game with a one-goal lead and left without any points. Carolina is definitely much improved, but in order to be a playoff team you need nights when you're not scratching and clawing for a win. The Canes have had a solid December — their best first-half-of-the-season month in recent memory — but other than a 5-1 win in Anaheim, no victories came easily. Bill Peters has instilled structure in his team ... now he needs to develop a killer instinct.

2. The Hurricanes will go back to Eddie Lack on New Year’s Even after Cam Ward lost for the second time in three games, allowing six goals while facing only 65 total shots in those outings. Ward wasn't to blame for Tuesday’s loss, but Lack has earned seven of eight possible points in his last four starts, including his best performance with the Hurricanes in Sunday’s win in Chicago. He deserves a shot to earn two more.

3. In the three-point game NHL, being "in" the playoff picture and being in the hunt for the first overall pick are often one in the same. Such is the situation for the Hurricanes, who are seven points behind Ottawa, the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 wild card team, but just four ahead of Columbus, the team that resides dead last in the NHL. It's OK to be excited about the possibility of battling for a playoff spot, but fans need to be prepared for a trade deadline sell-off that could see five or more key players shipped out in exchange for picks and prospects.

Number To Know

42 — Combined games since Carolina’s recent fourth line of Chris Terry (nine-game drought), Jay McClement (10) and Riley Nash (23) scored a goal. The trio last registered a point on Dec. 8, when Riley Nash earned an assist on Dec. 8 in Dallas. Don't buy the hype Carolina color man Tripp Tracy is selling: Terry, McClement and Nash were the only three players in the red for the Hurricanes on Corsi and Fenwick against the Devils, and it wasn't even close.

Plus

Eric Staal — It wasn't the captain’s best game, but he did find the net twice — his first multi-goal effort in nearly a year — and provided all of Carolina’s scoring. Staal’s shooting percentage is only at 7.9 percent, which would be his lowest mark since he was at 6.7 percent in his rookie season of 2003-04. Staal has a 10.8 percent career shooting percentage, so hopefully more pucks start finding the back of the net for No. 12.

Minus

Riley Nash — No shot attempts, a minus-9 Corsi, an unwillingness to finish checks on the forecheck, and one point in his last 20 games. Yes, Nash is logging minutes on the recently successful penalty kill, but what did Brad Malone do to deserve to sit in the press box night after night in favor of Nash?