RALEIGH — If the Carolina Hurricanes end up missing the playoffs this season, fans will have recurring nightmares that cause them to wake up in the middle of the night yelling “shoot!!” into the void, such has the Hurricanes’ inability or unwillingness to actually make opposing goaltenders work for a win been for the past few weeks.
The Hurricanes didn’t challenge the opposition much until the final period, while doing just enough on the defensive end to give the Colorado Avalanche the opening they needed to post a 3-2 win. Pavel Francouz made 44 saves, tying his career high, while Tyson Jost scored two goals, his first time lighting the lamp since the ball reached the bottom of the mast at Times Square.
Yep, just like we all expected: on a team that counts Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar and a resurgent Valeri Nichushkin among its offensive stars, it was a third-liner whose last multi-goal game came in a hat trick against the Lightning in October and has only registered four such games in his 200-game NHL career who singlehandedly did the Hurricanes in.
Of course, the Hurricanes were done no favors by luck, with two pucks ringing off the post behind Francouz and a Sebastian Aho redirection that beat the goaltender, hit the post and ricocheted off Francouz’s skate two inches wide of the post. But teams create their own luck, and the Hurricanes’ inability to do even the basics on offense most of the night was their own undoing.
Teuvo Teravainen figured prominently in both the inability to cash in and the comeback to tie it. His inexplicable return pass to Aho in the first period, so unexpected that Aho was already nearly to the goal line when the puck came back to the boards, so unexpected was Teravainen’s return pass from a wide-open slot.
That would become a vital miss just a couple of minutes later, when Tyson Jost pickpocketed Jake Gardiner at the Carolina blue line and scored the first of two goals, registering his first tallies of the calendar year and only his fourth career multi-goal game in a career that hit 200 games on Friday. The Hurricanes were not helped by luck in the least, either, hitting three posts over the course of the evening. The third, which hit the near post then ricocheted off Francouz’s skate and two inches wide of the far post, neatly summed up the Canes’ inability to get any breaks.
That’s not to say anything of a first-period near-miss, when Teravainen was hit in stride with a two-line pass from Jaccob Slavin but saw the puck hit his skate and bounce out, trapping Svechnikov in the zone offside on what would have been a clear-cut breakaway.
Anton Forsberg, for his part, was solid in net, done no favors by his defensemen on any of the goals. At the other end, the Hurricanes couldn’t do much more in front of Francouz than give him wide-open looks, which kept the Hurricanes at bay with relative ease.
That is, until Teravainen remembered that he actually has a useful shot, and in the span of two minutes he changed the face of the game.
The first goal was exactly the kind of bounces the Hurricanes had been denied for 50-plus minutes. Teravainen put the puck on net from the far boards, a low-percentage shot that stung Francouz on the shoulder and bounced off Ian Cole’s stick into the net.
But the second was a thing of beauty, Slavin’s stretch pass again finding the Finnish winger and Teravainen faking the pass to surprise Francouz, who just like everyone else in the building was expecting Teravainen to pass to Aho on the opposite wing.
The crowd was alive, but with 2:37 remaining Samuel Girard quieted it. With the Hurricanes overcommitting on the near boards defensively, Girard snuck down from the point and Landeskog found him with a perfect pass, leaving the defenseman one-on-one with Forsberg. He roofed it, changing the complexion of the game yet again.
Slavin had a wide-open net with Forsberg pulled and 1:38 remaining that he sent high of the net with Francouz down and out, the perfect encapsulation of a frustrating night that pushes the Hurricanes closer to the precipice.
They Said It
I would have to say a lot to the good. I thought it was great. I thought, other than the result and the last one gaffe that we had at the end, I thought it was a great game. We’re playing a great team. The first period wasn’t especially great, but it was OK, and then after that I felt like we had the game kind of going our way, especially the second period, yet we came out short on the end of that. The third period was all good, except we had that one screwup, and it cost us the game.
We’ve had too many (games like that). Part of it is that we’re still a young team. Some of the guys that are making these mistakes at the end are our young guys. That’s part of it. It’s part of the learning curve, but they’re also the guys winning us games. You’ve got to keep working with them. I still have a lot of confidence in these guys. That’s a tough game, for sure, because we played definitely well enough to win. Again, you’ve got to turn the page, though, because games come fast and furious. Was there a lot to the good? Yes. We’re going to dwell on the positives for sure and try to keep cleaning up the other stuff.
(Forsberg) was good. You can’t fault him on any of the goals. Point blank shots, and the other stuff he cleaned up for us. He was good.
To me, it’s how the game goes. If it’s that kind of game? Yes, I’m as frustrated as anybody that we didn’t get the points, but I like (the) effort out of the group. We dug in, we got down when we really probably shouldn’t have been down, and we dug out of it. Again, obviously, the mistake killed us at the end, but we still kept going. We had a grade-A chance at the end, not even sure how it didn’t go in but it felt like that was going to tie it up.
We’re hitting that bump in the road right now where there’s a little adversity with the injuries and some real good hockey we haven’t been rewarded for. That’s tough.
We’re solid in here. I love the group. They knew they had to rally and they did. They came out in the third and got us back right in the game, and gave us a chance to win. We had a couple of good looks even to win the game. We have to find a way to get it done. There’s a lot of tough lessons going on in here right now.
I don’t think it’s frustrating. I think we played well. Obviously we’re getting our chances, they weren’t going in for the first two periods. We came out with a ton of desperation in the third. I think every line for the first two shifts we were in there, then we got that one and got going a little bit. I guess you could say it was frustrating we didn’t score in the first two periods, but I think we were playing well and it was just two mistakes that ended up in the back of our net.
Obviously we’re trying everything we can to get points. It’s one play that kind of defines it, and that’s where we’re at this time of year. Everything is magnified. Every little play is just so important, and nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We have to pick our socks up and come back tomorrow night, and it’s got to be that third period desperation the entire game.
I think these last two games, those definitely hurt. Moving forward, there’s no time to “woe is us, woe is me.” We’ve gotta go. Teams are winning around us. We need to get back to that. Obviously we’re on the outside looking in, so we need to get going, get some points here, and get some wins.
We just kept shooting. I felt like we didn’t get all the bounces. But it’s tough times. Big points, we have to make sure,especially at home, that it’s 2-2 at the end, to at least get it to overtime and at least get the point. Every shift matters, and you play against great players, so you have to be careful.
We’re down a couple goals, so we have to just keep shooting the pucks and be around the net, and that’s what we did. We got a couple goals, got it back, and it’s just tough to lose that way.
It’s going to be a long (road trip). We have one game tomorrow, we have to prepare and try to get some positives off this game, maybe, try to feel good. We can’t go tomorrow and feel bad about this game. Try to be strong again tomorrow.
Of course I feel like I’ve had some chances, but they just have not been going in. It’s nice to see it go in sometimes, but if I find someone open I’ll try to make some plays too. We knew that we had to shoot some pucks. There was some traffic at the net, it’s always a pretty good chance, but if I still see someone open I’d probably pass, but I can shoot a couple too.
- The Avalanche are a really good team, and I’m not breaking any news by saying that. They make you pay for mistakes. That’s exactly what happened tonight: three glaring mistakes, one by Gardiner and two by Svechnikov, and all three ended up in the back of the Hurricanes net. That effort is going to win you games more times than not.
- What makes it more difficult is the circumstances the Hurricanes find themselves in. The out-of-town scoreboard helped them tonight, in the sense that they didn’t fall further behind, but the glass-half-empty view is that they had a chance and didn’t take it.
- The Hurricanes need points on the board, now. Playing technically near-flawless hockey does them no good unless it’s resulting in wins.
- Whatever worked last season to spark the Hurricanes on their ridiculous run to claim a playoff spot isn’t working this year. I don’t think it’s necessarily that the message isn’t getting through, because the buy-in is unquestionably there. But at the same time, the team is having a decidedly different reaction to (roughly) the same set of circumstances this year as opposed to last. Whatever the secret is, they’re running out of time to unlock it.
- Brind’Amour pointed out how young the team still is, and yes, that matters - but it was even younger last season when they caught fire. Could it be that the Hurricanes are still learning how to fight through adversity? Last season they kind of threw caution to the wind with very few expecting them to pull off the run they did. This season, the stakes are higher, and it’s harder for them to meet the moment. This might be the final growing phase of a team still finding its way.
- The Canes start a six-game road trip in Montreal tomorrow, but it will be a quick one - they’re back in Raleigh for practice on Monday and for a few days before they head to Philadelphia on Wednesday.