Coming out of a week off, the Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t ask for a more favorable setup: the worst team in the league, at home, with five days’ rest. Despite that, the Colorado Avalanche took advantage of the Canes’ layoff, skating out of PNC Arena with a 2-1 overtime win on Friday night.
The first game out of a bye week has been tough around the league, with teams entering Friday sporting a 3-9-1 record in their return to the ice. The Canes started out showing why, being skated circles around by not only the worst team in the league but one that was shut out by the Buffalo Sabres the night before. With the exception of a sharp save on Jeff Skinner a couple of minutes into the game, Calvin Pickard had very little to do.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, rumored Canes trade target Matt Duchene was the Avalanche’s most dangerous player, forcing Cam Ward into multiple big stops. The Avs got away with too many men on the ice at the end of a power play, and they took advantage to make it 1-0 on Tyson Barrie’s fourth goal of the season at 13:48. Barrie had all day to line up Ward after Joe Colborne interfered with Ron Hainsey in front of the net, uncalled.
Then, out of nowhere with less than a minute left in the period, Jeff Skinner let loose with a what-the-hell slap shot that just grazed the stick of Nikita Zadorov from the near half wall. The minor tip was enough to change the puck into a knuckler, and it fooled Pickard to send the Canes to the locker room tied after a period in which they were thoroughly outplayed.
They kept the momentum going into the second, finally with their legs under them after the weeklong layoff, and it nearly paid off a few times. Viktor Stalberg and Elias Lindholm especially could have given the Canes the lead with some quality chances, but Pickard was up to the task when called upon.
At the other end, Ward somehow turned away Gabriel Landeskog after Nathan MacKinnon sbowed off some fancy stickwork and set up his captain for a tap-in, only to be denied by perfect positioning by the Canes’ netminder. Later in the period, Ward got lucky with Matt Nieto on a breakaway when the puck rolled off Nieto’s stick, then Ward scrambled to keep the puck out with the Avalanche buzzing all around the Canes’ net.
The Canes had a golden opportunity to take the lead four minutes into the third period when Jay McClement forced a turnover and snapped a quick shot on Picard. The Colorado goalie stopped it, but the puck lay tantalizingly at the right side of the crease, although with no one in red nearby to take advantage on what would have been a tap-in. A minute later, Stalberg tried for a bank shot that was on the money but caught an unwitting Pickard trying to position himself and ending up in the perfect spot to kick the puck out.
Skinner looked like he had given the Canes the lead nine minutes into the third period, backhanding a top shelf laser past Pickard, but unfortunately for the Canes the play was dead thanks to a Lee Stempniak slashing penalty a few seconds before. Seconds later, Joakim Nordstrom didn’t get a shot off on a breakaway, as the Canes continued to get chances that they couldn’t convert.
After a mostly uneventful end to the period, the teams headed to overtime, where the Avalanche entered 5-2 and the Canes were 6-7. The Canes started overtime down a man after Justin Faulk tripped John Mitchell to prevent a breakaway with less than ten seconds on the clock, a penalty that probably secured a point but put the Canes in danger of losing the second.
The Canes killed the penalty, nearly scoring on a 3-on-1 with ten seconds remaining in Faulk’s trip to the box, and with 36.4 seconds remaining Mikko Rantanen converted a two-on-one from Duchene to give the Avalanche the win.
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