For the first time in about four weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes suited up for games on back-to-back nights. Also for the first time in about four weeks, the team got handed a loss.
The Florida Panthers came to Raleigh and got the better of the Hurricanes for most of the night, scoring an early goal, building a 3-1 lead, and then finding a goal when they needed it in overtime to take over the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
It was a mixture of highlights and lowlights for Rod Brind’Amour’s group, so let’s talk about last night.
A One-Line Night
It was a rough night for most of Carolina’s forward group, which got outplayed by Florida’s quick-strike offense in almost every situation.
One line did show up for the Hurricanes, though, and that was the trio of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Seth Jarvis.
That exciting line was head and shoulders above any other forward offering that Carolina came to the table with, almost singlehandedly carrying their offense at 5-on-5. Their 76.08 on-ice xGF% at 5-on-5 led the team, and no other line finished above 27.02%.
In just 7:04 of ice time at 5-on-5, they collected five scoring chances while the Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trocheck, and Jesper Fast combination had four scoring chances in almost double the 5-on-5 ice time while getting hemmed in their own zone almost routinely. The rest of the forward lines accounted for just a single scoring chance.
Unsurprisingly, that standout line accounted for the game-tying goal in the early stages of the third period.
Carolina did, at least, hold the Panthers off from getting many scoring chances in the third period, but it was a generally forgettable night at PNC Arena.
“We were slow again tonight,” Brind’Amour said after the game. “We had a lot of guys that didn’t play good. Let’s just leave it at that. It was tough... a handful of guys that you could say ‘wow, they were on their game tonight.’ When you’re playing a team like that and we’re not sharp, that’s going to be tough. I give the guys credit for digging in a little. The third period was better, for sure. That kind of started looking like a semblance of a game. But you can’t spot teams periods where we’re not very good. That’s not going to work.”
It certainly didn’t work, but as we’ve said often this season, the Hurricanes still found a way to be one shot away from winning the game despite a lackluster performance against a strong contender.
Lyon vs. Panther
In a surprising development, Alex Lyon got the net for the Hurricanes against the Panthers due to an upper-body injury suffered by Antti Raanta that rendered him unable to play.
The night got off to a rough start for the journeyman netminder.
The first shot of the night came at the 65-second mark, and it came off the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau in the high slot.
Teravainen responded quickly on the power play, but the next two goals went Florida’s way in an unfortunate fashion.
Lyon got about 75% of a Carter Verhaeghe shot on a two-on-one, but the puck still managed to ricochet off his glove and trickle over the goal line late in the first period. Then, on the first shift of the second period, Verhaeghe snuck a far-side shot through Lyon to make it a two-goal game.
It was a tough start for Lyon, who got thrown into the fire on short notice, but he did rebound and keep the game within reach for the final 39 minutes, especially in the second period where the Panthers had a number of chances to further extend their lead. The middle frame was probably Carolina’s weakest defensive period, but Lyon was up to the task.
“We kind of threw him into the mix here, and he was good,” said Brind’Amour of Lyon’s night. “He would probably like to have that first one back, but then he dug in and made some real big saves. He allowed us to at least get back in the game and at least have a chance to squeak it out.”
A Brady Skjei turnover led to the deciding blow from Anthony Duclair on a two-on-one in overtime. Lyon was left out to dry and couldn’t do much to stop Duclair point-blank.
Despite his poor start, Lyon built a game for himself and kept Florida at bay as Carolina’s skaters tried to build a game of their own. Florida’s big second period, paired with a pair of power plays in the third period, gave them an opportunity to blow the game open, but Lyon was good enough to give the Hurricanes a chance to find their footing, which is pretty much all you can ask for.
Skjei it Ain’t So
Unfortunately, Brady Skjei’s final play on Saturday was the one that decided the game in the other team’s favor, but his second-period goal marked a career-first.
With his slap shot goal off of an offensive zone faceoff win, Skjei scored in his third consecutive game, good for the longest goal streak in his seven-season NHL career.
Over his last three games, Skjei has scored four goals. That matches his total goal scoring from the first 89 games of his tenure with the Hurricanes. He has eight points over his last five games, which has more than doubled his point output this season. He had just five points in his first 28 games this season.
Skjei is in the most productive stretch of his NHL career, and while last night ended on a sour note, his production has been a pleasant surprise as of late. The Hurricanes will undoubtedly take it while they can.
This run from Skjei is reminiscent of Joel Edmundson's stretch back in 2019 when the former Hurricane ripped off eight points over a six-game span.
He was a very popular teammate during his time with the Canes, and our thoughts are with the Edmundson family as it was announced on Saturday that Joel’s father Bob passed away at age 61 after a fight with lung cancer.
C’est avec une grande tristesse que nous avons appris le décès du père de Joel Edmundson, Bob. Nos pensées accompagnent toute la famille.— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 8, 2022
We are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Edmundson, Joel's father. Our thoughts are with the Edmundson family.