With a great opportunity to move back into a playoff spot and try to beat some of the hopefuls away, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped yet another home game. In front of their 12th sold-out crowd, the Canes lost their fourth straight home game in wrenching fashion to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at PNC Arena Friday night.
It was another opportunity in which the Canes could have and honestly should have won the game, but for whatever reason, whether you believe in the hockey gods or puck luck, it just wasn’t going to happen.
Chances included a Sebastian Aho power-play redirect that hit one goal post, rebounded into Avs goaltender Pavel Francouz’s leg and into the other goal post, a double chance for Jordan Martinook that hit the post once, came back and went barely wide, and an Andrei Svechnikov blast that went between the pads of Francouz, but again right into the post ... just to name a few.
Even the Avalanche were the benefactors of successful offensive puck luck. An awkward bounce hopped into Jake Gardiner’s feet and he both couldn’t play it and nearly lost his footing allowing Tyson Jost to gain a clean entry. Jost decided to hold onto it while on a 2-on-1 rush and rifled it past Forsberg for the game's first goal.
“We’re trying everything we can to get points there and it’s one play that defines it and that’s where we’re at this time of year,” Martinook said. “Everything is magnified, every little play is so important. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us. We got to pick our socks up tomorrow night and it’s got to be pure desperation the entire game.”
Even late in the first it looked as if the Hurricanes had suffered another injury blow as Ryan Dzingel went down hard into the boards after Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov laid a cross-check into his back away from the play. However, Dzingel luckily later returned to the game.
Svechnikov felt more than the missed shots and one would call it more so the bane of his youth as two subtle plays cost the Hurricanes big. His first came in the second, when he failed to clear the defensive zone resulting in a turnover which went from Calder Trophy frontrunner Cale Makar’s stick right to Jost uncovered behind the Carolina defense. He skated the puck in close and slid it five-hole on the Canes second callup netminder, Anton Forsberg.
His second though would eventually cost the team the game.
“Moving forward, there’s no time to ‘What was us? What was me?’,” Martinook said. “We just got to go because teams are winning around us and we need to get back to that. We’re on the outside looking in so we need to get going and get some points here and get some wins...We’re at that point of the year where everythings got to be like that. We can’t get away from it. We can’t decide to stray for a second right now because everything is so important this time of year.”
However, the game isn’t all negatives. The team did show offensive dominance and the defense played well, cutting off countless rushes and Colorado chances. Haydn Fleury and Brady Skjei especially played well together as a new pair, with five shots, four takeaways and three blocked shots between them and more not documented on the scoresheet.
Another bright spot was Tuevo Teravainen going from having a night to forget to almost single handedly pulling off the upset win.
From passing the puck after being alone in the slot to getting a tremendously lucky bounce. Aho threaded a pass to Teravainen who let it rip, hitting Francouz up high. The puck sailed up into the air and came right back down onto the shaft of Colorado defenseman Ian Cole’s stick where it rolled down and into the net to finally break the shutout streak after peppering the Avs with 41 shots.
From missing a clear breakaway cause the puck went off the back of his skates to bringing the puck down the left-side wall and beating Francouz with a clean wrister five-hole to tie the game and bring the arena alive.
“I feel like I’ve been having some chances just not going in,” Teravainen said. “Kind of nice to see it go in sometimes, but if I find someone open I’ll try to make some plays too. If I still see someone open I’ll probably pass, but I’ll try to shoot a couple too.”
The third period as a whole looked like a different team and it stems from the leadership in the room.
“There was something said that got the guys going for sure,” Skjei said. “It starts with the leadership in the group and that’s huge. The guys followed that so it was a really good effort in the third just came up a little short.”
Teravainen, for one, changed his luck and even shot instead of passing for once, but the team as a whole couldn’t change its fate.
With the clock counting down and overtime on the horizon, a broken play ended up with Colorado defenseman Sam Girard streaking in alone and he released a heavy wrister off the post that banked up into the top of the net. This was the second play that Svechnikov had misplayed, but in his defense he was taking a calculated risk.
Covering Girard meant leaving Nathan MacKinnon open at the high-right point. Martin Necas had moved lower to cover the pass up to him, but the superstar effect of MacKinnon drew Svechnikov in because he was the biggest threat on the ice.
“I’m as frustrated as anybody that we didn’t get the points, but I liked the effort of the group,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “They dug in and we got down when we probably shouldn’t have been down, but they dug in, recovered and obviously a mistake killed us at the end, but we still kept going.”
The play also wouldn’t have happened had Jaccob Slavin’s stick not been knocked out of his hands along the boards, so again, bad luck leading to broken plays.
“Frustrating,” Skjei said about the outcome. “I wouldn’t say deflating. We’re going to try and keep the positive attitude in here and go over what we need to do...If we play like that for 60 minutes there’s no way we won’t come out with two points a game. We can definitely build off that and be ready to go tomorrow night in Montreal.”
The team has more work to do, including another game less than 24-hours later against the Montreal Canadiens to start off a six-game road trip.
“It’s going to be a long one,” Teravainen said. We have one game tomorrow that we have to prepare for. Just try and get some positives off this game. Try to feel good. We can’t go tomorrow feeling bad about this game. Try to be strong again tomorrow.”
While the home record might not be great, the last time the Canes went on a long road trip they went 4-0-1 in those games.