The Carolina Hurricanes extended their home point streak to nine games with a shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres last night. The shootout victory was a great change of pace from the normal trend of losing in a shootout and improves the Canes’ record to 4-1 in games that are on the back end of a back-to-back.
A win for the Hurricanes is always nice, but the win was far from joyous. The Canes again lost a third-period lead and were trending towards another overtime loss. Though the Canes were victorious, this continual trend is frustrating and worrisome.
It was clear that at about the 10-minute mark in the third period the Canes were happy to recede into a defensive shell with just a one goal game. Going into the third period the Canes were leading in shots 13-12 but were outshot 10-3 in the final 20 minutes and allowed a goal against with just under three minutes remaining.
This strategy of play when up even a single goal is unacceptable. The Canes removed everything that made them successful throughout the game. They became stagnant and posed no threat to the Sabres and were content trying to protect the slimmest lead. The team continually leaves Cam Ward out to dry in the third period which is not a great formula for winning games.
On the second front, it is extremely hard to come back out of a shell if you give up a goal, and you can see that in the seven overtime losses that the Canes have this year. Luckily this game proved to be different than the normal story, and the Canes won 2-0 in the shootout.
Despite a frustrating third period, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game. Though they were outhit 53-20, the entire team contributed in the hits department. Even undersized Sebastian Aho was even able to daze Josh Gorges with a hit in the first. It is great seeing the team being able to get a win out of this type of game that would normally lose.
The fourth line for the Canes had a great game and scored the only goal of the game. Joakim Nordstrom was able to bury a rebound from Jay McClement after McClement charged the net. Having a fourth line that can contribute on the score sheet is a huge factor in tight games and long seasons. It is great to see these guys being rewarded for their hard work.
Justin Faulk had one of his best games of the season last night. Though he didn’t show up on the score sheet, he singlehandedly stopped goals on two separate occasions. The first was a wraparound attempt at the end of the first, and a second was a block he made with his leg in front of Ward in the third.
This is the type of play that has been lacking from the alternate captain this season. The Canes need more strong defensive play out of Faulk to win more close games. Earlier in the season, he was missing these types of plays and they were leading to game-tying goals late in the third.
So far this season the best defensive play has come from Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, but the Canes will need to rely on Faulk to not only be a leader in the scoring department but to lead defensively on the blue line as well.
The Canes are now in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division with 33 points, three ahead of the New Jersey Devils who are in seventh. The Canes are still eight points out of a wild-card spot behind the Philadelphia Flyers who finally lost their first game after a ten game win streak.
The Canes will turn their attention to Detroit who they play against on Monday night at PNC. Detroit is slumping with a record of just 1-3-1 in their last five games. The Canes will need to take advantage of this to keep up with the extreme pace of the Metro.