You’d be hard-pressed to find a team more dangerous than the Colorado Avalanche, and after spotting them a pair of first-period goals last night, the Carolina Hurricanes spent the rest of the night desperately trying to claw their way back.
It was another tough night for Rod Brind’Amour’s group, which has dropped three of its last four games after a 4-1 loss in Denver.
Let’s talk about last night.
Cale Makar’s Wild Ride
A 28-goal-scorer a season ago, Makar didn’t even find the back of the net until his tenth game this season. His 13th game of the year saw the elite young defender pot a pair of first-period goals, which ended up being all the Avs needed.
A roughing call on Andrei Svechnikov at 14:05 of the first period set the Avs up with their second man advantage of the game. 24 seconds later, the Avalanche got an extraordinarily friendly bounce.
Makar’s shot from the top of the zone sailed wide, bounced off the end boards, fluttered through the air, bounced off the back of Antti Raanta’s left leg, and ended up in the back of the net.
The mile-high gods smiled down upon the home team, and they smiled again about three and a half minutes later.
Mikko Rantanen drove Calvin de Haan into the endboards, totally eliminating him from the play as he slowly got back on his feet. In the meantime, Jalen Chatfield broke his stick and couldn’t stop Ranatnen from finding a pinching Makar driving to the front of the net for his second tally of the evening.
Despite piling up 16 shot attempts at 5-on-5 to Colorado’s five, the Hurricanes exited the first period with a two-goal deficit on the road.
It was Colorado’s power play dominance and Carolina’s lack of any power play offense that made the difference in the opening 20. Both clubs had almost the exact same power play ice time in the first period, but the Avs generated six scoring chances with their time, while the Canes had just one while also allowing one scoring chance the other way.
More Offense from the Third Line
Carolina’s lone goal last night came from their most consistent line over the last few games.
Starting in their own zone, Jesper Fast boosted a pass up to Jordan Martinook behind the Colorado defense. He and Jordan Staal were quick to get up the ice and create a 2-on-1. Martinook slid a perfect centering pass to Staal, who poked the puck through the legs of Pavel Francouz.
The Staal line combined for three goals in Carolina’s 7-2 blowout win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, and they had another strong showing in Colorado. They led all Hurricanes forward lines in 5-on-5 ice time, outshot the Avs 5-2, and had five scoring chances for to just one chance against.
Unfortunately for Carolina, their excellent play wasn’t enough to tilt the scales in the road team’s advantage.
“They play hard every shift, and they’re finally getting rewarded these last couple of games,” said Brind’Amour on the third line’s play. “But, like I said, you can’t just have one line going. At the start of the season, we had one line going really well. Now, it’s Jordo’s line, but we need everyone. We need all four lines going. We haven’t had that in the losses we’ve had this year.”
Though his numbers weren’t particularly magnificent, Raanta had another solid night. His brilliant effort against the Panthers on Wednesday wasn’t rewarded, and he picked up another in the loss column despite playing well on Saturday.
The Hurricanes pushed for a game-tying goal early in the third period, but they couldn’t piece anything together before Nathan MacKinnon pushed the deficit back to two goals just over four minutes into the final frame. Rantanen then capped off his ridiculous night with an empty-netter at 17:50 to close things out.
Colorado’s star players made the difference. Rantanen’s ENG was his fourth point of the night, to go with three primary assists. Makar had a pair of first-period goals, and MacKinnon ended up with a goal and an assist.
More Powerless Plays
Carolina’s power play continued its struggles last night, going 0-for-5 and getting just one shot on goal in 8:52 of power-play ice time.
Officiating wasn’t very consistent last night, but you can only do so much complaining when you’re power play consistently fails to generate scoring chances when you desperately need them.
The Hurricanes rank 27th in the NHL with a 17% power-play efficiency rating, which is borderline inconceivable considering just how much firepower the team possesses. Of course, this is a trend that spans back many years, but at this point, they’re running out of excuses.
It’s one thing to have a power play that creates chances and builds momentum despite not scoring, but last night was an example of their continued inability to take advantage of the opportunities that other teams are giving them.
Losses like the one Carolina suffered last night hurt more when you see how they matched up against the Avs at 5-on-5. Special teams success is crucial in the playoffs, and it’s crucial when you’re going up against the defending Stanley Cup champion.
Next up for the Hurricanes is a trip to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Monday night before returning home for a rematch against the Avalanche on Thursday.