It hasn't been easy for the Carolina Hurricanes as of late, and last night was another example of that.
For the third consecutive game, the Canes lost in overtime last night, but unlike the previous two outings, you can put a pretty positive spin on their loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Let's talk about last night.
Breaking the Wrong Way
Like their loss in Minnesota over the weekend, most of Monday night's 5-on-5 action was congested and void of great scoring chances. In fact, the Hurricanes actually had one fewer high-danger chance than they had in Minny.
They had but four last night, which is now their second-lowest HDCF total in a game this season. On the other side, Winnipeg had eight, and all three of their goals through the first two-and-a-half periods of the game had something in common.
A blind centering pass from Andrei Svechnikov in the Jets' zone late in the first period saw the home team spring a quick counterattack and a long breakaway for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois put on the afterburners to create distance on Brady Skjei and bombarded Pyotr Kochetkov on his low-blocker side.
Another Svechnikov offensive zone turnover, this time via a pick-pocket by David Gustafsson, rendered the same result just before the seven-minute mark of the second period.
Gustafsson had a breakaway from his own blue line, which Kochetkov played aggressively and stopped, but his aggression was as detrimental last night as it has been beneficial in many other instances.
Michael Eyssimont followed up the play and forced his rebound bid through a flailing wall of Kochetkov and Calvin de Haan for his first NHL goal to make it 2-0.
And finally, the Jets scored their final goal in regulation early in the third period.
Jordan Staal carried the puck into and through the Jets' zone, but his cross-crease pass to Jordan Martinook was just a tick behind the crashing winger, and Winnipeg pushed the puck right back down the ice in the blink of an eye.
Dubois kicked the puck up to Blake Wheeler, setting up a two-on-two attack. Wheeler smartly dropped the puck off to Josh Morrissey to make it a 2-on-1, and the point-per-game defender ripped a wrist shot through the legs of Kochetkov to push the Carolina deficit to three goals.
Again, Kochetkov was playing way above his crease, committing fully to the shot. That could have been a bad decision had Morrissey opted to pass the puck to Cole Perfetti, but Kochetkov guessed right. Unfortunately, he looked indecisive on how he wanted to play the shot, seemingly in between making a standing save or going down to the ice, and he paid for his mistake.
Ten more minutes of in-game time passed, and the score remained at 3-0. It looked all but over, with the Hurricanes pulling their goalie for an extra attacker with almost six minutes still on the clock.
They went into desperation mode, and a series of unlikely events commenced.
About one minute into the empty-net sequence, Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho gained the zone and worked the puck from low to high. Jaccob Slavin got the puck and pivoted toward the middle of the ice at the top of the zone before firing a snapshot off of the glove-side post of David Rittich and into the net.
Seth Jarvis' drive to the front of the net made the goal happen. Rittich didn't see the puck, and the Hurricanes were on the board with 4:48 to play.
With the net still empty, the Hurricanes managed to bring the game back to within a goal for the first time since the early stages of the second period.
Again, it was Aho who helped the Canes establish puck possession in the offensive zone. And again, it was a point shot with traffic in front that resulted in a Carolina goal. Brent Burns one-timed Aho's pass on the net, and the shot found the stick of Svechnikov in front of the net. Jarvis was there as well, putting pressure on Rittich.
Svechnikov's two turnovers, both of which resulted in goals against, was the difference in the game to that point, but elite players find ways to contribute in big spots, and that's what the 22-year-old did with his 13th goal of the season.
Just like that, the Hurricanes had pulled themselves back into a game they were completely out of just 100 seconds prior.
Carolina's second goal started to put some palpable pressure on Winnipeg and their home crowd, who tried to rally the team back in the right direction, and it looked like the Jets were about to avoid the collapse with just over a minute left.
Kyle Connor's bid at an empty-net goal from the Carolina blue line would have sealed the deal, but Slavin, the man who started the rally, was there to keep it alive as he blocked the shot and recovered the loose puck.
Burns pushed the puck up the ice, the Hurricanes' first line (plus Jarvis) recovered the puck in the corner of the offensive zone, and Martin Necas added another big moment to a season that has been chock-full of them.
With Stefan Noesen right on top of the blue paint, Necas' long-range dart hit a Winnipeg defender and fluttered by Rittich to tie the game with just 39 seconds on the clock.
From the jaws of defeat, the Hurricanes snatched a point in the standings, forcing overtime in front of a stunned Jets team and Canada Life Centre crowd.
Mark Scheifele danced around Necas and Svechnikov after a Burns turnover on the first shift of OT and nearly ended the game, but Kochetkov held onto a great backhanded chance at point-blank.
But then, with three minutes left in overtime, Aho's centering feed for Slavin in front of the Winnipeg net got deflected away, and the Jets soared down the ice to win it.
Dubois dished an absolutely perfect homerun pass to Morrisey behind Carolina's back line, and the defenseman picked the top corner on yet another Jets breakaway to save the home club and end the game.
It's been a trying week for the Hurricanes, who are now losers of three straight overtime games against teams in the Central Division. Each game has been very different, though.
The loss to the Avalanche should have never gone to overtime with how much offense the team generated in regulation time. However, the loss to the Wild saw the Hurricanes' offense completely fall apart after taking a 1-0 lead, and they let down Kochetkov in his bid for back-to-back shutouts.
Last night's game also had no business going to overtime, but that's because the Hurricanes were seemingly out of the game with as little as five minutes left in the third period.
The huge comeback didn't result in a win, which is unfortunate, but how they stuck with it and played with a clear sense of desperation in the final minutes was a much-needed sign of life in this team.
"It's a crazy game, number one. You just never know," Brind'Amour said after the game. "We were out of that game in the third, and they just kind of dug in just said, 'Let's go.' I give the guys credit for not giving up. You don't want to get down three, but it was good that we didn't give up."
Of course, the comeback doesn't excuse what was 55 minutes of lifeless hockey, especially on the heels of a massively disappointing effort in Minnesota. Still, in an 82-game season, you have to search for positives during tough stretches, and last night certainly featured one.
The first line was another one. The Aho line saw Noesen and Jarvis jump up and take shifts, and both were on the ice with Aho and Necas (who both logged well north of 20 minutes of ice time in the game) for stretches of 6-on-5 play.
You could see the fatigue in every player after Necas' tying goal. They emptied the tank entirely in the final moments of the third period and were the reason why the Hurricanes managed to secure a point in the standings.
This game's optics could improve even more if the team can put together a complete effort and a win against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.