Despite a stellar outing in net from Antti Raanta, the Hurricanes could not extend their win streak to five games Sunday night, falling 2-1 in Vancouver.
The team was still without some key players, including Sebastian Aho, who missed the game with an illness, and could not muster enough offensively to walk away with a point.
Here’s a few key takeaways from the loss:
Raanta stands tall
If there was one player who was not at fault for the Hurricanes’ loss, it was their netminder. Making his first start in eight days, Raanta was spectacular, stopping 24 of 26 shots, and several of those were of the highlight-reel variety.
Raanta made two sharp stops within the span of a couple minutes in the opening frame, one on a shot from the dead slot and one on an odd-man rush after a Brendan Smith turnover, to keep it scoreless.
“He was stellar again,” said Seth Jarvis. “It seems like a broken record. We’ve really relied on our goalies. He did all he could for us, and we just need to find the back of the net.”
Raanta came up with another big save on Bo Horvat in alone to keep it a 2-1 game with six minutes and change late in the third period.
Raanta continued to make highlight-reel stops late in the third to keep the Canes within one, but the team could not find the equalizer and come away with at least a point.
“He’s a great goalie,” said Martin Necas. “Everyone knows that. He made some huge saves. In the third when you are losing by two and then losing by one, you try to play a little bit more for offense. They had some breakaways there, two-on-ones and he made some saves and kept us in the game. We’ve just got to find a way to score more than one goal.
That was no fault of Raanta’s, however, as he did everything he could to keep the Canes in the game. After a bit of a rough couple games against Philadelphia and Ottawa, Raanta has played very well in his last two starts.
The Canes are definitely going to need both their goalies to play well as the season goes along, and it should be encouraging to see Raanta playing like he has.
Turnovers prove costly
Rod Brind’Amour said after the game that the Canes “gave them a couple freebies,” and it’s tough to argue with that, as both Vancouver goals came as a direct result of Canes turnovers.
The Canucks jumped in front late in the period, as, after an unforced icing and uncharacteristic defensive zone turnover by Jordan Staal, J.T. Miller set up Brock Boeser in the slot, and Boeser made no mistake to make it 1-0.
The Canucks’ second goal, about eight minutes into the second period, came after a turnover at the offensive blue line gave Vancouver a 4-on-2 rush that Elias Pettersson finished off to make it a 2-0 game.
Making mistakes like that against elite talent in the NHL is always going to put you behind the curve.
“I think we made it a little harder on ourselves than we needed to tonight with some weird plays that we don’t normally make that led to a couple of their goals,” Brind’Amour said “They played OK over there, but we just kind of gave them a couple freebies. It’s tough to come back when you’re chasing the game. But we worked hard, just didn’t execute very well.”
Jarvis-Kotkaniemi-Necas a bright spot
While the Hurricanes didn’t generate enough offensively, there was a bright spot. With Aho out, the line shuffling led to a trio of Jarvis, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas. That trio was dangerous all night, and finally got rewarded in the third period.
After Kotkaniemi won a board battle in the defensive zone, Jarvis and Necas entered the offensive zone on a two-on-one, and Jarvis slid a pass across to Necas, who beat Demko with a gorgeous backhand finish.
“I think playing with Martin is awesome,” Jarvis said. “We play similar kind of styles. We like playing fast. We like making plays. I think me and him, the more time we spend together on the ice and off the ice, it’s only going to benefit us.”
That’s a trio that has probably earned a longer look. Kotkaniemi continues to play well after being moved to center, and he should get more of a chance to play with some skilled linemates. And Jarvis and Necas are clearly a fit playing together.
Brind’Amour didn’t have much information about Aho after the game, other than that he “just didn’t feel right” around game time so the Canes left him at the hotel.
Aho had been carrying the Hurricanes offensively lately, with five straight multi-point games, and he’s their leader in points, goals and assists this year.
Obviously Carolina can’t be too overly reliant on any one player, but Aho is the team MVP, bar none, and the team will hope to get him back soon, as any longer absence could prove costly.