With just two games remaining in the 2018 calendar year, the Carolina Hurricanes entered their Saturday matinee in Newark one game under NHL .500.
Carolina’s performance against the New Jersey Devils? Also not ideal.
The Hurricanes’ incompetent power play failed to get off the schneid, blown opportunities proved costly, and another excellent showing in net - this time, from Curtis McElhinney - was wasted en route to a 2-0 shutout loss at Prudential Center.
It was a battle between the bottom two teams in the Metropolitan Division, and it certainly looked like it at times throughout the afternoon.
Both teams looked a little sloppy in the opening frame. There weren’t many real scoring chances and both goalies took care of business. Neither team could break through on the one full man advantage opportunity that they got, respectively.
The Canes opened up the second period with 1:56 of a power play, and again they looked lost from start to finish. They were given yet another chance late in the frame when John Quenneville got whistled for a tripping penalty and... well...
Not but moments later, the Devils broke the ice. Naturally, it was a shorthanded goal.
That goal felt as deflating as any goal that has been scored on the Hurricanes this season. The power play had reached an unthinkably low point, so adding the SHG on top of Carolina’s extended run of ineptitude on the man advantage was equal parts ironic and infuriating.
The Hurricanes pushed back, somewhat, in the third period until Clark Bishop was sent to the box for high-sticking. The penalty kill, which has been quietly dominant as of late, came up with another impressive kill and kept the game at 1-0.
At 12:24 of the third period, head coach Rod Brind’Amour had finally seen enough. A Steven Santini interference penalty was accompanied by a first power play unit featuring Brock McGinn, Clark Bishop, Janne Kuokkanen, Brett Pesce, and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Funny enough, that hodgepodge of role players had more quality chances in their lone shift than either power play unit had up to that point in the game. At the first stoppage of play, though, the top unit came back out and tried to get something working.
The desperation was noticeably higher after the message-sending move by Brind’Amour, and it looked like it would lead to the game-tying goal when Micheal Ferland threaded a beautiful cross-crease pass to Sebastian Aho, but Aho couldn’t elevate the puck over the outstretched right pad of rookie Mackenzie Blackwood.
Matching roughing minors led to a 4-on-4 sequence late in the game, where the Hurricanes took advantage of the open ice and tied the game.
Until they didn’t.
Teuvo Teravainen’s shot found its way through Justin Williams’ screen in front and into the New Jersey net, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact with the goalie. With nothing to lose, the Canes challenged what appeared to be a very debatable call, but the call remained unchanged.
Here's the late 3rd period game-tying goal that got waived off for incidental contact with the goalie. Devils score an ENG moments later and win the game. pic.twitter.com/HAWHPopFyy— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 29, 2018
New Jersey captain Andy Greene finessed a long-range shot into the Canes’ empty net with all of 33 second left in the third period, thus ending the road team’s comeback bid and delivering the dagger in a 2-0 win.
Fresh off of his first win in the NHL, Blackwood put together an excellent game for the Devils and got his first shutout in the big leagues.
A good story for the rookie goalie and the Devils is a disturbing story for the Hurricanes, assuming the feeling of apathy hasn’t already overwhelmed us all. The loss against a Devils team that didn’t have Taylor Hall or Marcus Johansson in the lineup dropped the Canes to 15-17-5. They are two games under NHL .500 for the first time since 2016.
It’s hard to project where the Hurricanes will go from here. They’ll fly back to Raleigh and get ready for the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Eve, and they will do so as losers of 10 of their last 13 games.
There’s a lot going on right now with this team and, at the same time, there seems like there is very little going on with this team. There are a lot of problems that have either been ignored or just covered up (poorly), yet there has been very little done to try to fix those problems.
This team finds themselves at a new low. It feels like we have said that numerous times over the last few weeks, but I think it’s been accurate every time.
Again, we are looking to the leaders of the Carolina Hurricanes to do something. We look to Rod Brind’Amour to configure a lineup that can actually compete with NHL teams on a regular basis. We look to Don Waddell to construct a competent roster. We look to Tom Dundon, the wildcard in all of this, who has undoubtedly been incensed while watching his half-billion-dollar investment take a nosedive directly into the pavement. The Canes have been plagued by indifference for a long time. One would wonder if the “new” regime also plans on doing business like that.
They said they were going to be proactive over the offseason. There were a lot of things said over the offseason. Now, their actions have to do the talking and, up to this point, it’s been extremely quiet.