Carolina Hurricanes Losing Ground in Playoff Chase

In this week’s Cardiac Cane wrap-up, the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t help their playoff chances very much, but Coach Peters did get to see some new pieces and his team’s depth.

Summary of 3/14 – 3/20:

The Carolina Hurricanes are still mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs, but this week just about put the Canes playoff dreams to bed. The team only got two points from a possible six while other teams like the Penguins and Flyers continued their winning ways. Here’s what happened.

The biggest test of the week was the first one. Carolina flew up to the nation’s capital to do battle with the Washington Capitals. The Caps have lost at home only eight times and are poised to run the table in the playoffs.

Carolina and their young defense, however, hung in there with the President’s Trophy favorites. The score was blank until former Hurricane Justin Williams cashed in out front of the net early in the second period. The Canes answered back when Jordan Staal powered into the Caps zone, shot, gathered his own rebound, and then sniped the puck glove side on Braden Holtby.

The score stayed that way until overtime when Evgeny Kuznetsov fed Alexander Ovechkin from behind the net for the winning goal. Eddie Lack had very little chance to stop what was one of Ovi’s signature one-timers.

Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters elected to challenge whether or not Kuznetsov entered the zone offsides. The replay clearly looked to show Kuznetsov offsides, but the referees thought otherwise. It was an even more frustrating decision by the officials considering Jeff Skinner was called offsides on a very similar play in the third period. The explanation using some obscure offsides rule, and the subjective eye of the officials, didn’t exactly clear up anything either.

Here’s the video for you to see for yourself. The play occurs at 2:26 of the playback:

From Washington, it was on the Pittsburgh. Carolina started the game very strongly, scoring on their first shot. Rookie Phil Di Giuseppe scored early into the 1st period. Riley Nash then scored soon after to give Carolina an early 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Penguins, led by a determined Sidney Crosby, battled back.

Crosby cut the lead in half before the 1st period ended. Phil Kessel tied it up in the 2nd and Crosby deflected a slap pass to give Pittsburgh the lead by the period’s end. Nick Bonino scored his 5th goal of the season on a Kessel pass cemented the victory for the Penguins in the final period.

After going down early, Pittsburgh really turned it on. They rebounded thanks to goalie Matt Murray, who gave up some soft goals early and then settled in nicely. On top of Murray’s improvement, the Hurricanes’ defense was uncharacteristically sloppy. On multiple occasions the ‘Canes let the Penguins park in front of the net, giving them plenty of offensive opportunities.

Finally, this week the Hurricanes faced off with the Minnesota Wild. After a scoreless opening period, the Wild’s David Jones poked in his own rebound for the first goal, but that lead was quickly erased when Noah Hanifin sprang Chris Terry on a 2 on 1 with Nathan Gerbe. Terry’s wrist shot was near perfect, beating Devan Dubnyk on the short side. You can see for yourself from the video here – More from Cardiac Cane: Chris Terry highlight reel goal.

Early in the third Jason Zucker was hit by a pass from Mikko Koivu. The puck landed at Zucker’s feet and he finished it off into the open net. The Canes answered back when Elias Lindholm sprinted into the zone with the puck, established a strong position and got the puck to an open Staal.

For the sixth game in their last seven, the Canes headed to overtime, where nothing happened. Next up was the shootout, where the Wild scored on their first two chances. Bill Peters, perhaps wanting to give some of his young guns a chance while they’re here, elected to give Brody Sutter an opportunity in the shootout. Unfortunately, Sutter failed to even get a shot off. Riley Nash kept it interesting with a goal, but Chris Terry’s third round miss gave Minnesota the victory.

Despite the poor results, Carolina did have a reason for optimism this week. Ron Hainsey was out of the lineup on Tuesday, so Trevor Carrick got his first call-up to the NHL. In that game, Carolina’s defensemen averaged 21.5 years old so it was pretty remarkable that they held the Capitals to only one goal in regulation. It’s been said before, and it will be said again, the future of the Hurricanes is bright on the blue line.

Cane of the Week:

Riley Nash – 3 games, 1 goal, +1 rating

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins

The Hurricanes didn’t help their playoff chances this week, but some of their future role players took center stage. Riley Nash was one such player who really showed up this week.

Since about a week and a half ago Nash has stepped up his play and started to contribute offensively. Assistant Coach Rod Brind’Amour started to use Nash on the powerplay and the 26-year-old forward has responded positively. While on the man advantage he has been a steady hand, helping to corral pucks and make aggressive passes.

This week, Nash was able to camp out in front of the net against Pittsburgh. Skinner found him and he cashed in. It was a deserved reward for Nash who was one of Carolina’s most solid and complete forwards all week.

The Forecast:

Tuesday 7:00 pm @ PNC Arena against the Buffalo Sabres

Thursday 7:00 pm @ Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Saturday 7:00 pm @ PNC Arena against the New York Islanders

Carolina is in desperation mode in terms of the post-season. First comes the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel, who in his short career has already done damage against the Canes. Next its back on the road when the Columbus Blue Jackets play host to Carolina. Finally, the Canes return to PNC Arena to entertain the Islanders. New York has fallen into a wild card position, and are looking to rebound, so Carolina must come to play.

 

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