Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes faced two disappointing losses over the weekend, including one narrow loss against the Washington Capitals not long after the Canes beat them on the road.
Canes Have Gut Wrenching Loss, 4-3 Against Caps
Just 24 hours after the Canes beat the division-leading Washington Capitals on the road and playing their first home game under new owner, Tom Dundon, the Canes lost 4-3 in a shocker that left many Caniacs extremely mad and frustrated.
The PNC Arena had the energy of a vital inter-divisional game, a great crowd for one of the Home Grown Series, the excitement of hearing what the new majority owner has in mind for the Canes and most of all, the lead with just over three minutes to go, then to lose in regulation was a major let down.
Staal Scores Early on Powerplay
The game on Thursday night started seeing harder checking and plenty of stare-downs towards the end of the game as the Canes stopped a 10 game home and five game overall win streak, dominating the game ending with a 3-1 win in what I would say was Scott Darling’s best game of the season. Friday’s game was like the old days in which there was a home-and-home series with all of the rivalry that goes with those.
The game started just like Thursday’s ended with very tight checking and with every inch of time and space taken away on each end of the ice. The major changes were both teams went with their back-up goalies and Lee Stempniak made his season debut after finally recovering from a preseason “lower body” injury. The Canes went on the powerplay early and wasted no time in converting.
Jordan Staal won the important faceoff sending it back to Justin Faulk. Faulk passed over to Sebastian Aho along the near half boards. Seabass faked skating up high but instead passed to Justin Williams along the goal line to the right side of the goal. Willie made a fast rebound pass to Staal in front of the goal with Staal putting everything into the shot to get it by Philipp Grubauer to give the Canes the early lead and pulled every Caniac into the game.
The Caps had a powerplay two minutes later and after a melee in front of the crease, which had Ward initially come out of the goal for an attempt to push the puck clear, found eight players sprawled over, on top and around each other with one appeared to be holding Wardo’s stick not allowing him get back into position, and with the puck still loose, somehow found it’s way into the net. It was such a mass of confusion in front, the scoring changed three times before giving the goal to Lars Eller.
Aho Scores His Team Leading 16th
The Caps started the second on the tail end of a powerplay from a Haydn Fleury holding penalty late in the first. Alex Ovechkin scored from the top of the left circle which will probably have a dot put there on every rink in the NHL when he retires as that is his spot and his shot is as impressive as you’ll ever see. More on the time later but the goal went down as an even strength goal but when I looked at the clock, it showed one second left on the penalty.
The Canes went two for two on the powerplay eight minutes later when Seabass sent a hard slap shot that was more of a knuckleball, from the high slot. Both Canes’ powerplays goals came so fast, their total time with the man advantage was all of 14 seconds, a much improved powerplay from earlier in the season.
The second period continued to be very entertaining with little play in the neutral zone, just constantly up and down action. During a TV time out, they showed Dundon in a suite and he got a very nice ovation, acknowledging the crowd and attention. His news conference earlier in the day was great and very positive. Not only has he been consistent about the Canes staying in Raleigh, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman once again made it very clear the Canes were staying in Raleigh. Many attribute the rumors to originate from a certain city in Canada and hopefully what was done today, will put an end to the countless, and baseless, questions about relocation.
Skinner Nets Beauty
Jeff Skinner score just under two minutes into the third on a pretty goal. Skinny zigged and zagged around two defenders just inside the blue line then sent a hard wrister to the far upper corner. Stemper got the primary assist on a nice touch pass and, for a first game midway in the season, had a great game. Hopefully his strength and wind will improve in the next few weeks and get back to being another scoring threat. The Caniacs were all feeling good for the rest of the period but Washington isn’t the top team in the Metro for nothing: they kept the pressure on for the full 60 minutes.
The Canes were showing signs of how to keep the lead for most of the third. Victor Rask, not known for his defensive skills, made a couple of nice plays to clear the puck from the Canes D-zone without icing the puck. Simple plays like that never make scorecards or stats but are key to ensure wins. Justin Williams also made a great back check that avoided what looked like a sure goal. With just over three minutes to play and the puck behind the Canes goal line, Noah Hanifin made what turned out to be a huge mistake as he had the puck and could have sent the puck hard along the boards, even if it resulted in an icing or find a teammate for a possession clear.
Hanifin made a soft backhander to the slot but turned out to be a centering pass for Brett Connolly who beat Ward to the shock and amazement of every Caniac in attendance. That was no All-Star move for the lone Cane selected for the All-Star game. Guaranteed that was a hard learning lesson and one that the coaches will probably be using for films. Just as everyone was expecting overtime, the Caps made one last rush. With their top line out, Nicklas Backstrom dumped the puck in front of the goal with Jay Beagle able to poke the puck past Ward’s glove with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. Video review put it at 1.5 seconds left but the other hard lesson is if the puck if ever in that position with that little time left, do whatever is necessary to clear the puck or tie up your man. That’s easy to write but hard to do so my frustration may be showing a bit.
Take away from the two games: the Canes can be a very competitive team but need consistency. A little beef on the team wouldn’t hurt as they really are one of the smallest teams in the league. Ovechkin is six-foot-three-inches, 235 pounds, the largest player on the Caps, skates like a Formula 1 car and, according to former Cane Chad LaRose, hits like a freight train.
Just like the old commercial: show me the beef, but make sure that beef has skills. All Caniacs have to be excited on the direction the new owner will be taking this team.
Canes Toasted by Flames, 4-1
It could be argued if the five-day mandatory break came at a good time or a bad time as the Canes lost 4-1 to the Calgary Flames who were the better team on the ice but they’re not a team that should win by three goals. This is the time of the season when all teams seem to be hit by the flu bug and while both teams had players out, the Canes that came back from their bout with the flu probably needed another day or two to get their strength and stamina back.
The Flames are one of the fastest teams in the west but the Canes out played, out skated and out hustled the Flames earlier this season but this game was a completely different story. The Flames entered the game the hottest team in the NHL and extended their win streak to seven games and are probably not happy their break also started after this game as everything is rolling their way right now.
Canes Started Break One Game Early
The Canes just couldn’t get out of the mud in the first period. The Flames had everything going for them skating away from their Cane defender, knocking down 10 shots in the first 10 minutes of the game to the Canes three. All Cane shots were from far out with Mike Smith making easy saves or better described, easy passes. The Flames scored early in the first on a play that in retrospect was a complete description of the entire game.
Curtis Lazar went through the neutral zone crossing the Canes blue line on the left side. Justin Faulk went over hard to introduce Lazar to the boards but instead got tangled, lost his stick with Lazar still going strong. Jaccob Slavin went over and succeeded in taking down Lazar but the puck went to Matt Stajan all alone in front of Scott Darling, putting the puck in for the 1-0 Flame lead.
Late in the period, Johnny Gaudreau, aka Johnny Hockey, skated at will in the Canes end sending beautiful saucer pass to Dougie Hamilton in the slot reflexing a quick shot past Scott Darling for a 2-0. The Canes ended with 10 shots in the first but not one was from inside 30 feet.
Canes Have Better Second
Coach Bill Peters had to tell the Canes the break starts after the game as the Canes play early in the second was far better than at anytime in the first. Jeff Skinner and Brock McGinn are two of the Canes that did have good games. Skinny is a marked person by every team and has adjusted his play to constantly move for finding what little time and space he needs to burn the opposition. Both powerplays the Canes had in the second were results of Skinny’s aggressive play drawing two penalties.
The Canes powerplays were flat out abysmal as I can’t recall a shot on goal let alone an attempted shot on either man advantage. A look over to the bench, saw Rod Brind’Amour’s stare downs could only mean a little more time for a few to keep up with Roddy in the workout room.
Yeah, good luck on that.
The Canes shot selection was better in the second with players getting in the dirty area in front of Smith. Smith was excellent throughout the game so it would take good old tenacity if the Canes are going to score. The Canes stepped up their game in the second but were still a stride or two behind the Flames.
Aho Goes Down, Williams Steps Up, Stempniak Scores First
The Canes started the third with determination to make a game of it. Still down “only” by two goals, getting one early in the third would do a lot to get the Caniacs back into the game. Sebastian Aho carried the puck into the Flames end along the near boards, cutting cross ice but got an elbow to the jaw from Mark Giordano sending Seabass down on the ice for a while. Justin Williams immediately went after Giordano for the cheap shot, which shows his leadership and support for a team mate.
Only thing that Williams could hope for, and got, was for the linesmen to quickly get in to break it up as the Canes can ill afford to lose Williams for an amount of time. Former Cane Tim Gleason was in attendance and how nice would it have been to see him on a tag team with Willie. No word on how bad the injury was for Seabass but hopefully it isn’t severe for the team leading scorer. Giordano did get ejected for the hit and the Canes blew the five minute powerplay by blowing coverage allowing Hamilton’s second goal of the game then got an additional penalty during the ensuing four-on-four.
The Canes thought they had a goal after the Canes, Caniacs and horn blaster all thought McGinn scored and started the celebration, the Flames brought the puck down the ice with numbers as a few Canes realized the ref didn’t signal goal. With the Flames having numbers, after a classic tic-tac-toe play, Hamilton netted his second of the game. Later in the period, badboy Matthew Tkachuk converted on a powerplay for a strong 4-0 lead. Very late in the period, Lee Stempniak broke the shutout knocking in a rebound after hard work by both McGinn and Victor Rask. It was a powerplay goal but Stemper being the professional he is, didn’t go skate past the bench for the customary high fives to everyone as he knew the game was lost and there was nothing the team did that night to be proud of.
Getting that first goal on just his second game of the season had to be good for not only him but the coaches and the staff that got him back into game shape. With an assist in Friday’s game, relying on Stemper and his chemistry with Skinny could be one of the better things to look forward to during the second half and the push to making the playoffs.
Now the mandatory five-day break starts with many of the Canes headed to warm weather and blue water. The Canes are having an unbelievable ticket sale, more than likely one of the first changes Tom Dundon is making.
From Friday, January 19 to Sunday, January 21, 2018, take advantage of the Carolina Hurricanes best lower-level ticket offer of the season, $40, for 11 games in January and February.
Next game is Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 6 PM against the new Las Vegas Golden Knights (with respect to #3 in the country Clarkson Golden Knights). Be there!