You would think that drawing a backup goalie with a .882 save percentage instead of the Vezina Trophy favorite with a .938 save percentage would be the thing that could get the Carolina Hurricanes out of a very frustrating offensive stretch.
Well, that’s not exactly how it played out in Raleigh on Sunday night.
New York Rangers backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev put together his best outing of the season, and the Hurricanes continued to be snakebit en route to a 2-0 shutout decision in favor of the road team.
The Hurricanes put on a shooting clinic throughout the first 20 minutes of Sunday’s game.
They bested the Rangers in shot attempts by a 31-7 margin, shots on goal by a 14-3 margin, and high-danger shot attempts by a 4-0 margin.
That led to precisely zero goals, though, as Rangers’ backup Alexander Georgiev made a handful of tough saves, and the Hurricanes failed to capitalize on several great chances around the goal.
They were also aided by a pair of first-period power plays, but they came up empty on both opportunities.
The second period featured more of the same for Carolina, who put 15 more shots on Georgiev and continued to come up empty. That shots tally didn’t even include a shorthanded breakaway chance from Vincent Trocheck that he rang off the crossbar.
The Rangers were much more active in the frame, though. They also hit the post on a grade-A chance and had a breakaway of their own that got turned aside by Frederik Andersen.
Just past the halfway point in the game, the Hurricanes got bailed out by a horribly ill-advised whistle. Andersen attempted to lay down on a puck behind the goal line on the left side of the net, but he never had control of it. The Rangers collected the loose puck and stuffed it into the open net.
The whistle had been blown about a second before the puck went in, though, as the referee thought Andersen covered it. New York’s bench was incensed, and for very good reason, but it didn’t take long for us to be reminded that puck don’t lie.
After outshooting the Rangers 28-7 through the first 35 minutes of the game, the Hurricanes were the team to allow the first goal of the game.
At 15:39 of the second period, a point shot got deflected by New York’s leading goal-scorer, Chris Kreider, and it beat Andersen to make it a 1-0 game.
Both teams exchanged chances late in the period, but the 1-0 score held through the end of period two. The Rangers accumulated six hang-danger shot attempts in the middle frame to Carolina’s four.
The third period was another remarkable period of hockey wherein the Hurricanes did everything except score a goal.
Carolina held the offensive zone for what felt like 75% of the period, and they pelted shots towards the net, but Georgiev flailed all over the crease and kept shot after shot out of the net.
A phenomenal move from Andrei Svechnikov set up Martin Necas with one of the team’s best scoring chances of the night, but his one-time shot missed the mark and hit the outside of the goal post.
New York mounted a pushback with about seven minutes left in the frame, but Andersen was there to keep his team within a goal down the stretch.
The Rangers were chasing the puck through most of the game, but in the second half of the period, they started to lock things down, and they did a much better job of snuffing out the Hurricanes’ scoring chances by getting sticks in passing lanes, using the body to block forwards out, and crowding shooting lanes.
Rod Brind’Amour pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with 1:45 left in the period, which led to a high-danger chance from the slot by Sebastian Aho, but Georgiev kicked it away before the Rangers iced the puck and the Canes called their timeout with 1:17 left.
The timeout was for not, though, as the Rangers continued to keep the Canes at bay in the final minute before icing the game away with a Frank Vatrano empty-net goal with just over 40 seconds to go.
The Hurricanes got handed their fourth consecutive loss on Sunday, and with it, the Rangers pulled within three points of first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Andersen did what he could, allowing just one goal on 17 shots, but there wasn’t a number of stops he could have made that would have gotten his team a goal on the scoreboard.
The story of the night is that of a trend that has been developing over the last handful of games - this team cannot find ways to score consistently.
According to NaturalStatTrick, the Hurricanes accumulated 5.91 expected goals in all situations, their most in a game this season, almost half a goal ahead of their seven-goal barrage against the Columbus Blue Jackets back on January 1.
EvolvingHockey had the Canes with 5.64 expected goals.
We are now within 24 hours of Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline. With the Hurricanes entrenched in their worst stretch of results on the season, general manager Don Waddell will be the man to watch through tonight and into Monday morning and afternoon.
The results are maddening, but it’s hard to imagine that one trade can change what has been a wretched goal-scoring drought despite having a game like they did against the Rangers where they should’ve been rewarded for countless chances around the net.
Only time will tell if the Hurricanes will try to seek outside help on a trade market that has already seen most of its big names get dealt in the days leading up to the deadline.