While the Carolina Hurricanes remained on the wrong side of the scoresheet, last night’s 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens was at least entertaining. Fans were treated to a four-goal performance which saw Andrei Svechnikov’s best game in the NHL, along with Sebastian Aho scoring on a goaltender for the first time since early November.
It was a back and forth game that easily could have ended with Carolina on top. Unfortunately, very bad defensive miscues at the absolute worst times cost the Canes once again, leading to Montreal coming away with the victory.
The final score likely says all that needs to be said about the good part of last night. The last time the Hurricanes scored four goals without the aid of an empty net was November 8th against the Chicago Blackhawks. While that stat seems hard to believe, the Canes have continuously struggled to score this year. So the ability to score four goals against one of the best goalies in the NHL has to be somewhat of a positive, right?
The night started off strong with a highlight reel goal from Svechnikov. The game was at 4-on-4 and he got a pass from Sebastian Aho then proceeded to do this:
That’s not just any defender either; that’s likely future Hall of Famer Shea Weber. But Andrei wasn’t done: he would net his second of the game very early in the third period to tie the game by knocking in his own rebound.
Justin Williams did a great job getting him the puck from behind the net and Andrei stayed with it getting his own rebound and scoring from a tough angle.
The game would then take a slight turn for the worse but the Canes kept fighting back. Jaccob Slavin would pull the Canes to within one in the third period with a beautiful snipe from the top of the circles.
Jaccob Slavin is pretty good at hockey pic.twitter.com/7vMdvRxj0m— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) December 14, 2018
What you can’t see here is Slavin actually sets this goal up at his own blue line. He knocked down an entry attempt by Montreal at the Carolina line and got the puck up ice, only to follow the play and get himself wide open. It still feels like Slavin has even more to give offensively when you see plays like this.
The last Cane to join the fun was Sebastian Aho. Not to be outdone by Svechnikov’s power move earlier in the game, Aho showed off his skill set with a nice move of his own.
No matter the end result of the game, seeing Carolina score four goals and continue to fight to the very end offensively is a good sign. Against Toronto you could tell the team gave up after Toronto went up by two but they did not do that last night. For a team that struggles to score as much as the Canes do, getting four goals against Carey Price - even given his own difficulties this season - has to go down as a good thing.
For the first half of the game Petr Mrazek stood on his head and kept the Canes in it. Montreal dominated the first period and Mrazek kept the door shut. Then things started to go sour for him in resulting in five goals allowed by the end of the game. Not every goal was his fault by any means, but there were a couple where you felt like Mrazek needed to make a save and was unable to.
Brendan Gallagher’s goal early in the third to put Montreal back ahead moments after Svechnikov tied it is a good example. The goal itself is a two part blame on the defense and Mrazek.
Mrazek has to make that save. At that point in the game and with that close of a range, there is no way that goal should get past a goalie.
The Canes frequently need their goaltender to bail them out and keep them in the game. Mrazek did that in the first half versus both Montreal and Toronto but then failed to get the job done for a full 60 minutes. Point blank, the Hurricanes need a lot more from him. With so much uncertainty residing around the goaltending situation, it is clear they desperately need Curtis McElhinney to return very soon.
While the final score will not reflect it there is one major common theme between the Toronto game and the Montreal game. Giving up a goal right after scoring a big goal is likely the worst thing you can possibly do as a team in hockey. It sucks all momentum away and almost deflates a team to the point of no return.
It’s exactly what happened against the Maple Leafs and it happened numerous times last night against Montreal, starting with Svechnikov’s goal to tie the game only to give up a back breaking goal to Brendan Gallagher less than a minute later.
As bad as Mrazek played the puck, it never gets to him if Slavin is able to just clear the puck. Instead he turned it over and Montreal scores. It sucked the life right away from Carolina and then they gave up another goal to give Montreal a two goal lead.
Artturi Lehkonen walked right around both Calvin de Haan and Justin Faulk on this play. Once again, at that point in a game you need your veteran guys to step up and make a play or save and they failed to do so.
But amazingly Carolina fought back when Slavin scored cutting it back down to a one goal game. Then the Canes gave up another back breaking goal to Andrew Shaw.
With a team full of veteran defensemen, you simply cannot allow this to happen on multiple occasions when your offense has clawed its way back in to the game. We’ve now gone from multiple games where the power play has cost the Canes to two straight losses directly on the defense for allowing inopportune back breaking goals.
Moral of the Story
The Canes keep finding new ways to lose and it’s as frustrating as ever. While it is more entertaining to see the team lose 6-4 versus 4-1, the end result is still the same. For once the offense wasn’t to blame at least. Horrible defensive breakdowns and not getting saves when you need them cost Carolina last night.
The good news is they get a chance to redeem themselves tonight. The offense must show up again against the defending champs. There’s tons of uncertainty in goal tonight, so the defense needs to figure things out quick. Another bad night of miscues and we could bear witness to Alex Ovechkin’s second hat trick in as many games.