For the Carolina Hurricanes, out-chancing and in many ways out-playing their opponent has meant very little in terms of the scoreboard at times this season. Last night is another example of that as the Canes had 38 shots on goal compared to 26 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, won the special teams battle with a Power Play goal from Teuvo Teravainen, but still managed to fall by the score of 3-2 in overtime. Converting on scoring chances continues to be the bugaboo for this team as they enter the final stretch of the season, and coupled with untimely letdowns in net such as the fairly weak goal which served as the game-winner from Toronto’s Morgan Rielly, the Canes continued their season of frustration.
For Carolina, a strong beginning to the game was finally rewarded when Victor Rask scored his 15th goal of the season from a tough angle nearly nine minutes into the game.
As has happened all too regularly though, the Canes were unable to handle prosperity. Less than a minute later, Mitch Marner responded for the Maple Leafs with a one-timer from the right circle. Cam Ward got a piece of the shot, but not enough, and the score was tied at one.
The Canes made their way through the rest of the first period preserving the 1-1 tie, but momentum had turned on the Marner goal. While the Canes had outplayed the Leafs through 20 minutes, the scoreboard once again did not bear the fruit Carolina had hoped for.
In the second period, Carolina again began swiftly as they converted on an early power play with a shot from Teravainen which was deflected in front of Frederik Andersen to give the Canes another lead. The goal was originally credited to Jordan Staal, whose net front presence was surely a factor, but was ultimately determined to have deflected off a defenseman’s stick out front.
Regardless, the power play tally appeared to have Carolina off and running in the second, but theit continued inability to generate more than just puck possession, but rather top-notch scoring chances in the middle of the ice, evaded Carolina once again. 5-on-5 hockey provided few tremendous chances the rest of the night, although Carolina carried possession and the action through much of the rest of the game.
Seven minutes following the Canes’ power play marker, the Leafs evened the score as James van Riemsdyk corralled the puck following a neutral zone faceoff and snapped a wrister by Ward to notch the game at 2-2.
The second half of regulation proved to be uneventful on the score sheet, but continued to outline what is good and what is lacking for this version of the Hurricanes. The good aspect is that the young defensive core continued to play rock-solid hockey against what has quickly become one of the faster and more exciting crops of young forwards in Toronto. Keeping the Leafs in check is no small task, but Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, and Brett Pesce acquitted themselves well. Slavin in particular was noteworthy as he logged what was a career high in minutes for himself last evening, as he provided 29:47 of ice time for the Canes.
The biggest strides you can look for with this team as it is currently constituted is seeing performances like this from the young defensive core. As currently built, the offensive deficiencies are glaring, and likely will need to be remedied from a combination of further young talent through the system and from the draft, and even from outside the organization via trade and/or free agency. The defensive core is here, and performances like last night only underline that the back end can be taken care of by this crop of talent.
As the game slipped into overtime, which has not been the friend of the Hurricanes by any means, Carolina eventually had a trio led by Rask trapped on the ice for an extended run of 3-on-3. Eventually, while being chased by Rask, Morgan Rielly slipped into the area between the circles and released a rather lukewarm wrist-shot towards Ward. Unable to kick his pads out to change the angle properly, Ward allowed the wrister to leak past and into the net for the game winner.
Moral of the Story
This game provided a microcosm of the entire season for the Hurricanes. First, the puck control and ownership of pace which Carolina has proven to be able to provide. Secondly, the inability to properly capitalize on this game control by making in-roads on the scoreboard. Thirdly, Excellence defensive efforts which highlight the bright future which exists on the Hurricane blue line. And lastly, the devastating untimely goal-tending struggles which seem to plague the Canes in the worst situations possible.
Yet another missed opportunity for two points, but not without signs of what could be in the potentially not-too-distant future. For Carolina, the areas of need are clear, the only question is whether they will be able to meet those needs heading into next season. A home and home with the New York Islanders awaits on Monday and Tuesday.