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About Last Night: Close calls, special teams battle, third-period collapse

The Canes took a one-goal lead into the third period against the NHL’s best team, but, largely due to losing the special teams battle, could not seal the deal.

Jamie Kellner

The Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead into the third period against the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, but could not close it out in a 6-3 loss. The team will be glad to have survived a pair of injury scares after Jordan Staal took a hit to the head in the first and Sebastian Aho and Nino Niederreiter collided knee to knee in the second.

The biggest reason for the Canes’ loss was the cardinal sin of putting one of the best power plays in the history of the NHL on the ice too many times, and not being able to convert on their own man advantages. Let’s take a look at a few key takeaways from the loss.

The good: Canes survive injury scares: Everyone in Canes land held their collective breath in the first period when Staal, who has already missed extensive time this season with a concussion, took a shoulder to the head from Yanni Gourde in the first period and went to the locker room.

It was a dirty hit, made all the worse by Staal’s history with head injuries. Fortunately, he ended up being ok, and came back in the game to start the second period, and actually scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway.

The other incident came when, with the Canes on a power play shortly before Staal’s goal, Aho and Niederreiter ran into each other on a knee to knee collision. Niederreiter stayed in the game, and Aho returned after a brief trip to the room. Brind’Amour said after the game the team would need to see how things looked with Aho the next day, but Carolina appears to have avoided a major injury to a star player.

The bad: Special teams- This one’s pretty simple. This time of year especially, you have to win the special teams battle. The Canes did not score on their three power plays, including a three-minute one as a result of Gourde’s major in the first (the major started with two minutes of four on four after Trevor van Riemsdyk was called for roughing).

Carolina confounded the issue by putting the best man advantage in the NHL on the ice five times, and the Lightning scored twice, including the game’s first goal and the back breaking fifth tally late in the third.

The special teams battle is going to be important both in the Canes’ final nine games and, should they qualify, in the playoffs, and Carolina will need to find a way to win it.

The ugly: Third period- There’s no shame in losing to a historically good team like the Lightning. However, going into the third period, the Canes held a one-goal lead, and you’d like to see them get at least a point in that situation.

As the team looks to lock up the points it needs to reach the postseason, closing out games against good teams is a must.

The Canes seem to have taken the four-goal third hard, and the team has bounced back from a tough loss just about every time this season.

The Canes will need to bounce back quickly from this one as well, with two more home games this weekend, including Sunday’s massively important showdown with Montreal.