In what felt like a must-win game on Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes lacked the desperation that they needed. Instead of treating their tilt with the Ottawa Senators like a big game, they totally wet the bed and put together a half-hearted performance - for the second game in a row.
Newcomer Nino Niederreiter and his linemates Greg McKegg and Justin Williams got the start for Carolina, and they brought energy.
Niederreiter was noticeable from the start, finishing his hits, competing hard, and certainly feeding off the new-guy adrenaline. That high-energy play eventually coaxed Ottawa into taking the first penalty of the game.
Outside of an early chance, the first power play unit failed to do much of anything in their 90 seconds on the ice and the Canes couldn’t crack the scoreboard. They were gifted another man-power advantage just a few minutes later, but again they looked out of sorts.
From there, the Senators took over.
The Hurricanes were extremely lackluster in their own end, failing to clear the zone when they got their opportunities, and that eventually cam back to bite them at the 15:47 mark.
Petr Mrazek made an outstanding blocker save on a shot from Cody Ceci, but the rebound got swatted into the Carolina net by an unmarked Magnus Paajarvi to put the road team up 1-0.
With just over a minute left in the period, Micheal Ferland did what he tends to do - try to get his team engaged in the hockey game. After getting hit up high and roughed up by Mark Borowiecki, Ferland went after the chippy defensemen, and while there weren’t many punches that connected from either player, they were both sent away for five minutes. In Ferland’s case, he got an extra two for what appeared to be a questionable “roughing” penalty.
That didn’t do much to hurt the Canes, though, as they were able to kill the penalty that overlapped into the second period.
In desperate need of some positive energy, the Hurricanes had to show more life in the second period, and that’s exactly what they didn’t do.
Bobby Ryan capitalized on a loose puck in the slot after several failed clearing attempts by the Hurricanes, Brett Pesce and Niederreiter being among those players who couldn’t get the puck up ice.
All of 13 seconds later, Mark Stone sniped one by Mrazek off of an offensive zone faceoff win. It was a well-executed play by center Chris Tierny to set a pick and let Stone come in and net the goal. All of a sudden, the Canes were down 3-0.
The Hurricanes did eventually get on the scoreboard, though. A high-effort shift from the Carolina fourth line led to a lucky bounce as Borowiecki threw the puck off of a charging Warren Foegele and it deflected by Anders Nilsson.
It was a fortunate bounce, but Foegele has more-than earned it with how hard he plays and how few bounces he gets to go his way. It was his sixth goal of the season.
Instead of feeding off of that energy, the Hurricanes continued to flounder. They were able to generate some zone time, but few chances came from their efforts.
Then, at the 16:25 mark, Christian Wolanin, Ottawa’s seventh defenseman who was dressed in place of a 12th forward, netted what felt like the back-breaking goal on a shot from the top of the slot to make it a 4-1 hockey game.
From there, Guy Boucher coached a very Guy Boucher-type game. His Senators parked the bus and didn’t give up much of anything to the Canes. The Hurricanes looked totally suffocated, thanks in part to Ottawa’s defensive play and part to just a severe lack of desperation from a team that had absolutely no excuse to lay the egg that they laid on Friday night.
The final score was 4-1, in favor of the bad guys.
They’ll head out West now, on a three-game road trip through Alberta and British Columbia, to finish up their pre-bye-week slate.
If they want to have any hope of making the playoffs, they’ll need to have a clean sweep against the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks. That’ll be a tough task, especially for a team who has looked so passive over the last two games.
[On how the team was playing so well and then laid two eggs @ NYR and vs. OTT] I don’t know if we thought we had a little bit of swagger there. I don’t know if we’ve come off of it or what the situation is, but I think we as a group can see the games that we play well in and the way we play. It’s hard to watch and be a part of it when we know how we can play. We can beat good teams and we can beat teams and then we come off of it and we don’t look like a very good team. Obviously, tonight we didn’t look very good... We deserved to lose and they were the better team.
[On how this team can get back to the way they were playing] It’s a process. And I know people don’t want to hear that and I don’t want to say it, but until you get it, it is what it is.
[On Nino Niederreiter] Nino was great. He was strong. He was talkative. He was patient with the puck. I though he was really good. I thought he had a lot of opportunities, going to the front of the net pretty well.
[On if the team will look at the standings and put more emphasis on the Western Conference road trip] Well, we should. Lately, we haven’t been really looking at the standings, because one game won’t do it for us. It’s more of a weekly thing for us just trying to gain ground and keep track. Losing these last two really stings.
[On if he felt like the Senators got to their game first] I mean, you have to give them credit. They got to their game right away and we fought it and never got to our game. That was an easy game for them.
[On how the lines and d-pairings got switched up after the second period] Well, we were so bad. It was like... I almost dressed in and went out there. I might have been just as good as what we were throwing out there. We just didn’t want to play the way we’re supposed to. I didn’t know what I was watching. That was the first time all year that I can say that. In the other games, I mean you’re going to lose games, but it was obvious that we were going to lose that one, just by the way we were playing. (The Hurricanes) were tying. Everyone was trying, but we tried to do too much. And (the Senators) were just sitting back saying ‘thanks’. That’s tough, at this time of year, to have that kind of game. That’s really the disappointing part of it for me. We’re going to have to pick the pieces back up tomorrow and get back to work and fix all of that, but that was disappointing.
[On the disappointment from that loss] We needed this game. We knew it, and we just, for whatever reason, didn’t want to play our game. We thought we had to do more. I mean, just look at the goals we gave up. We have the puck on our stick, they’re pressuring us. Instead of banking it off the glass and liking to fight another day, we tried to fit one through under someone’s stick... The guy’s there, making a play, and we try harder than we have to, and it’s in our net. That stuff. That’s not how we (want to) play.
[On faceoffs] We didn’t start with the puck, ever. That’s part of it for me. You have to start with the puck. If you lose a draw and you’re in your own end for 20 seconds, or whatever, you wasted that shift. That’s a huge area we have to get better at, among other things.
[On if faceoffs are a team effort] Most of the time, but if you’re losing them clean, that’s tough. It’s the 50/50’s that you have to try to get. You gotta remember, we’re missing a big guy here (Jordan Staal). This is the stuff that starts to creep in, I’ve been saying it for a long time. He takes 30 faceoffs for us every night for us and he hasn’t been there for a while. The deficiencies that we have are starting to creep in, and tonight it was evident. Generally, that’s a stat (faceoffs) that you can look at and see if you’re engaged or not.
[Thoughts on Nino Niederreiter] He was fine. He had a couple of chances. On that first shift, he almost had a breakaway. I said, in the dressing room, I apologized to him. That effort... that’s not our team and that’s his first game, so I’m sure he thinks we’re... I don’t know what he thinks we are right now. We’ll correct that.