With Saturday afternoon’s 4-3 overtime defeat, the Carolina Hurricanes are officially on a six game playoff losing streak, dating back to 2009.
Saturday’s overtime winner was a gut punch, especially given the goal scorer, long time Canes’ villain Brooks Orpik. The winning goal was precipitated by Brett Pesce’s diving effort in the neutral zone which saw him lose his stick.
The Capitals proceed to set up in zone. Recognizing that his defenseman is now without a stick, Teuvo Teravainen astutely hands his off to Pesce.
It’s a smart play, given the relatively light work work that wingers have in the defensive zone compared to defensemen and centers. Obviously, in an ideal world each defender would have their own stick, but usually, wingers are tasked with covering the opponent’s defensemen in low percentage scoring areas of the ice. That makes a stick less vital to their role than it is to Pesce covering a forward in the slot or near the goal.
As the stick transition takes place, the puck is wrapped around the boards and taken by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Pesce doesn’t chase Kuznetsov around the net and instead gives the Russian time to set up and survey his options. Kuznetsov finds a charging Orpik for a one-timer. Game over.
Normally, Pesce’s decision wouldn’t be a bad one. If Pesce were to chase Kuznetsov from one side or the other Kuznetsov would easily walk out of the other side presenting a golden opportunity with Pesce chasing from behind. As long as everyone else is covering their mark, Pesce is content to let Kuznetsov wait behind the net.
But with Teravainen without his stick, his coverage of Orpik is limited. Kuznetsov’s pass is one Teravainen could normally deflect away or break up with his stick. Instead it finds Orpik for the game winner.
Pesce’s decision to wait out Kuznetsov puts the Canes’ defenseman squarely in Petr Mrazek’s crease as an inadvertent screen. It forces Mrazek to play extraordinarily deep in his net, preventing him from getting out to challenge the Orpik shot and in turn leaves the Canes in 0-2 series hole.