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About Last Night: Hot start not enough as Panthers claw back

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The Hurricanes fell to the Florida Panthers Wednesday night in overtime, as costly turnovers and bad transitional defense led to a defeat after a blazing hot first period.

Florida Panthers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes came up short at home Wednesday evening against the Florida Panthers, earning a point but ultimately losing 4-3 in overtime after a Jonathan Huberdeau breakaway winner for Florida.

The Canes started out strong with an awesome first period, but couldn’t put together a full effort to get two points and move to the top of the Central Division standings.

Here are three takeaways from the Canes’ overtime loss:

Ugly turnovers and poor transitional D

The Panthers scored four goals Wednesday in PNC Arena, and all four of them came in transition due to either a bad turnover or a lapse in Carolina’s defense.

The first came from Huberdeau on the power play, as the Canes seemingly fell asleep a bit as Keith Yandle sprung Huberdeau for a one-on-one opportunity with Alex Nedeljkovic. Later in the game Alex Wennberg scored in transition after a beautiful spin-o-rama pass from Huberdeau.

Florida got the puck for Wennberg’s goal after an ugly turnover by Andrei Svechnikov, and scored by taking advantage of a pretty unsightly defensive effort by Brady Skjei. The Panthers’ third and final goal of regulation came after another unforced error and turnover by the Canes, as Jordan Martinook couldn’t control a puck, and was scored in transition on a very saveable shot Nedeljkovic couldn’t handle.

And then in overtime Florida did it again, as a pass from Jake Gardiner was intercepted by Aleksander Barkov leading to a clean breakaway for Huberdeau. While Barkov’s defensive play was certainly more spectacular than Gardiner’s pass was bad, it was still a quick turnover that led to the game-winning goal for Florida.

The turnovers and lackluster transitional defense directly led to Carolina’s loss Wednesday night, as the Canes let some sloppiness and completely avoidable mistakes get in the way of two points.

Not putting it all together

While the Hurricanes’ results have been mostly great so far in 2021, the team hasn’t played a ton of complete all-around games. It’s something that Carolina players have been quick to discuss all year; the team has done a great job of grinding out games, but they haven’t had a lot of dominant efforts from start to finish (though Monday’s win over Columbus certainly falls into that category).

Wednesday night, the Canes played probably their best first period of the season. Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho scored, and a 2-0 scoreline realistically could have been 3-0 or 4-0. The Hurricanes dominated the opening 20 minutes, looking as good as they have all season during that stretch.

But as well as things started out, they didn’t finish the same way. The Hurricanes couldn’t put together a full 60 minutes, as Florida had the Canes on their heels for the final 30 minutes. Everything that was going well for the Hurricanes stopped. They didn’t play horrible hockey, but they made enough mistakes to cost them a point in the standings.

Carolina is in a good place. The Canes’ record is great, they are near the top of the division and a lot of different guys are scoring. Still, it feels like this team really isn’t playing its best hockey right now, something the optimist can take comfort in and the pessimist can be concerned with. The first period Wednesday was what the Canes can be, and when Carolina can put it together like that for a full 60, this team is going to be dangerous. Not that it isn’t already.

A notable reunion for Vincent Trocheck

Wednesday was the first time Trocheck played against his former team in the NHL, and he certainly made the most of the reunion. Trocheck, along with his entire line, was a bright spot for the Canes against the Panthers, and he scored late to get a point back for the Canes and force overtime.

Trocheck has been great for the Canes all season, and he was great during his time with the Panthers. He scored 111 goals and 282 points during his time with Florida, and Wednesday night he made it one goal and one point on his career slate against the team that drafted him.

Wrapping Up

The Hurricanes didn’t come out on top Wednesday night, but they did find a way to claw out a point in a game where things really weren’t going their way in the second 30 minutes. Grinding out points is good, though after the first period Carolina has to feel it was more than capable of getting two Wednesday.

Carolina will stay home for a back-to-back with the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won three in a row and six of its last seven.