Another game, another overtime loss off of the stick of Matthew Tkachuk.
“It stings,” said Jordan Martinook. “You want to get the win tonight to split it going back to Florida, but now our mindset is to go there, get the next one and go from there. We’ve gotta have the mindset to go and get that next game.”
Defensively, the Canes were as strong as they’ve been this postseason. They limited Florida’s chances and kept them off the board for the majority of the game. It was even an impressive showing for Antti Raanta who got the start after Frederik Andersen went the distance in the Game 1 quadruple overtime loss.
“Raanta played really well,” said captain Jordan Staal. “Gave us a chance and that’s what you want. Had no problem with his game.”
However, it was the offense that couldn’t keep up.
Part of that is the absolutely spectacular play of Sergei Bobrovsky in net, but Carolina just hasn’t been able to put together a solid, smooth effort in the O-zone yet. Passes are off, shots are in the backs and skates of the opposition, and the chances that do connect are being robbed by Bob.
“Obviously, we’d have liked to get a few more goals,” Staal said. “One goal wasn’t going to cut it tonight. We had our chances to score a lot more than that, but they didn’t go in tonight.”
And it doesn’t help when the power play peters out. The first chance was pretty strong for Carolina, but it slowly became weaker and weaker, culminating in the worst looking chance at the tail end of the third period in a tied game.
In a way, that’s to be expected though. The Hurricanes lost their top two shooting talents in Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty to season ending injuries, and past them, the team is comprised of a lot of checking and grinding types.
Despite that, this team has been in every game this series and you have to imagine the luck will start to come eventually. At least you hope that’s the case.
“Tonight we played pretty well,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “I’m happy with the game and everything. It was two teams going at it and I thought we had the better of it, just haven’t found a way to score. That’s just it. These are tough when you’re right there. The margins are tight. We haven’t gotten a bounce yet and hopefully we’ll get one because that’s what we’re probably going to need.”
After a disappointing quadruple overtime loss in Game 2, the Hurricanes wasted no time in coming out hot. They battered the Panthers with a deluge of chances to begin the game and it didn’t take long for Carolina to break through the wall that was Bobrovsky, as Jalen Chatfield found himself taking up real estate at the top of Florida’s crease and redirected in a Sebastian Aho feed just 1:43 into the game for his first career postseason goal.
Florida thought they had struck back quickly, with a Gustav Forsling floater finding its way in past traffic, but the play was called back after an offsides challenge.
The Panthers would get Carolina back for that one though, as late in the first, Jack Drury rang the goal frame after being a late trailer, but that goal too was called back after an offsides challenge.
That’s really where things started going south for the Canes. They needed more out of that first period push, but they didn’t.
“You need to capitalize when it’s going your way,” Brind’Amour said. “When you have momentum going and you’re creating opportunities, you’ve gotta get something out of it and that’s just what we haven’t been able to do in these last two games.”
Aleksander Barkov would score in the second period to tie the game up with a superstar individual effort in front of Raanta, but really that’s all they really had in regulation. There were other chances for them too, but it’s not like the Panthers have been the better team. The games have been as close and equal as it’s been this postseason.
The Hurricanes had another push in the third period, but once again were stymied by Bobrovsky.
Then overtime came and while it looked like it could be another one that went the distance, it ended in a flash.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi was whistled for a hook — which it was, but you usually never see it called in playoff overtime — and then on the penalty kill, Jaccob Slavin’s stick got caught in Brent Burns’ skate, Burns fell, Slavin lost his stick and Florida was able to tic-tac-toe it across to Tkachuk for the goal.
One mistake and it was over. Again.
The series is still far from over, but the difficulty has now ramped up.
“We’re playing hard and playing well, we’ve just got to continue to work at it,” Slavin said. “Special teams is always a game within the game, so we’ve got to make sure we’re winning that, but playing hard and we’ve just got to go out and win the next one.”
All Carolina can do is take it one game at a time and that starts with Game 3 in Sunrise.
“We’ve been through this,” Brind’Amour said. “This is not something new to us. We’ve been kicked in the teeth a lot these last few years and we’ve always responded. So I’m pretty sure that we will in the next game.”