It's been a month of bonus hockey for the Carolina Hurricanes. Of the eleven games played so far in March, the Canes have played overtime in seven of them, and they have points in nine of the 11.
The problem is, after Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders, five of those games have ended with the Canes only earning one point. Cal Clutterbuck's second goal of the game, with 13.8 seconds remaining in overtime, consigned the Canes to their sixth loss in seven games.
"We're in games. We're right there," said Jordan Staal. "They're unfortunate endings, but we battled hard."
The Islanders, though, took the game to the Canes in the first period, taking a quick 1-0 lead when Kyle Okposo backhanded a turnaround shot through the legs of both Ron Hainsey and Eddie Lack. They doubled their lead with four minutes remaining on a Nikolay Kulemin breakaway, one of an inordinate number of odd-man rushes the Canes conceded in the first period.
Coach Bill Peters said that the game turned on the Canes' inability to win faceoffs in the first period, in which they went 5-for-12. The rest of the game, the Canes won 28 of 41, leading Peters to remark that his team seemed unready to compete early.
It didn't take long for the Canes to turn the ice around. Crashing the net paid dividends three times in a span of seven minutes as the Canes took the lead, first with Victor Rask firing home a rebound, then Jeff Skinner and later Jay McClement pouncing on loose pucks just outside the crease. All of a sudden, the Canes were rolling, pouring 19 shots on Isles goaltender Jean-Francois Berube in the second period.
Just as quickly as the Canes struck in the second, Clutterbuck served notice that the Isles would not roll over by tying the game just 30 seconds into the third period. The Canes had their chances, especially in overtime when Noah Hanifin beat Berube but hit the post, and it was a fluke goal that ended the game, with Clutterbuck's shot going wide but taking a bizarre deflection off Jaccob Slavin's jersey and past Lack at an unpredictable angle.
Staal said that Slavin, who was the Canes' best player on the ice in overtime, did nothing wrong. "That's hockey. Sometimes it goes that way. You never want that to happen, but the kids played great. He shouldn't be too worried about that."
With an assist on Skinner's goal, Chris Terry has increased his career-high points streak to five, with three goals and two assists in that span. Newcomer Patrick Brown, called up for his first NHL game this season to replace the injured Phil Di Giuseppe, played 13:37 and earned the praise of his coach. "He came in and had good energy," said Peters. "I look forward to seeing him again tomorrow."
The loss was the Canes' conference-leading eleventh in the extra session, four more than any other team in the East and second only to Nashville's twelve in the NHL. Their tragic number is now 9, and could change again depending on the outcome of the Flyers' game against the Coyotes tonight. The Canes return to PNC for another division matchup with the New Jersey Devils tomorrow in an Easter matinee at 5:00.