The Carolina Hurricanes faced a Buffalo Sabres team who is far out of the playoff race Tuesday, and yet, the Canes were unable to secure the win due to never really finding their game until it was too late.
Let’s take a look at last night:
It just wasn’t enough
The Canes third period efforts were impressive, but they fell short where it really mattered due to a horrific second period.
In the second period, the Canes allowed 12 SOG to just nine of their own and let in two goals, scored by Casey Mittelstadt and former Hurricane Jeff Skinner.
In the third period, however, the Canes scored one goal on 12 SOG and allowed just five shots from the Sabres. Unfortunately, two of those shots did end up heading in the Carolina net.
“We played a terrible second period and then you leave it up to chance,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “We played a good third and came out hard, but it was too late. We got what we deserved.”
The Sabres also were able to score during Carolina’s PK, which marks the sixth time in six games the penalty killers have allowed a goal. This is unusual for the Canes, as their penalty kill has been close to perfect all season.
Thinking it’s easy
One of the primary issues with this game had nothing to do with the play on the ice— it was the Canes’ mindset heading into it.
“If there’s bad habits creeping in towards the playoffs, that’s tough to regroup afterwards once you’re in,” said Nino Niederreiter. “That’s exactly what the problem is right now. We’re facing teams that aren’t really in the hunt anymore, and they play a different type of hockey. For us, we’ve just got to find a way to stick with it.”
The Sabres are a team that are nearly eliminated from playoff contention. Thinking this would be an easy, breezy win was Carolina’s first mistake.
“That game was unacceptable,” Niederreiter said. “The way we came out especially. There’s no easy team to play against and they played hard. We took it for granted. We thought that would be an easy game and that wasn’t the case.”
This mindset seems to have led them to a slow start. The strong third period finish wasn’t enough, as the Sabres were still rolling and scored a pair of goals to win them the contest.
While there aren’t many positives to focus on after last night, Jordan Staal did tally his 600th (and 601st) point Tuesday night, getting assists on both Jesper Fast’s first-period goal and Niederreiter’s third-period equalizer.
The Hurricanes captain struggled to get his name on the scoresheet earlier this year, but has since stepped it up and produced not only as a leader for the team, but as a playmaker especially. He has three assists in the Canes last four games.
A uniform note
The Canes did try something different last night, testing out a new uniform combination. They matched their usual road jersey with black pants and gloves, instead of the red that fans are used to seeing. I was a big fan of the look, honestly, but that is definitely not my takeaway from last night.
The Carolina Hurricanes (45-17-8) will have another chance to top the Buffalo Sabres (26-34-11) on Thursday night at 7:30pm, this time within the walls of PNC Arena.
“That’s nice to get another crack at it,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s probably less about the opponent and more about us trying to regain that game that we want to play, that 60-minute game.”
Maybe the home-ice advantage will help, maybe it’s a change in their mindset, or maybe the Canes just have to go out and play their hardest— but this is a must-win game for Carolina.
The Canes lost their second in a row last night and are 4-5-3 in their last 12, whereas the Buffalo Sabres have earned points in nine of their last 10 games.
With this win, the Canes have another chance to clinch a playoff berth, and that’s something that would be nice to get out of the way sooner rather than later (for the players AND the fans).
“It’s not like we can just push a button and be ready to go,” Fast said. “Every game you’ve got to be ready and play the right way.”