The Carolina Hurricanes proved that it was possible to tread on solid water in suffering a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators at the RBC Center on Tuesday night.
Playing what seemed like a paralytic game, the Hurricanes’ pace was set at a lower speed than what the team has been accustomed to playing so far this season.
Carolina’s play early on did not hurt nor harm them as they played to a scoreless first period with the Senators winning 14 of 19 faceoffs (74%) but going 0-2 on the power play while outshooting their opponent 15-5.
After playing a simple, yet solid first period, it seemed that the Hurricanes offense could not generate any flow to it during the second period.
“We were really struggling to generate anything after the first period, especially some speed through the neutral zone and (we) dumped pucks that we didn’t need to dump and (were) late on forechecks,” coach Paul Maurice said.
The team’s lack of consistent forechecking during the second period finally caught up with them.
Ottawa’s Zenon Konopka gave the Senators a 1-0 lead at the 6:30 mark after the Hurricanes got caught on a defensive pinch that allowed Sergei Gonchar to feed Konopka a pass that he carried into the Hurricanes zone and handcuffed goaltender Cam Ward with a shot high to the stick-side.
As the period continued on, Ottawa gained back the edge in creating scoring opportunities by outshooting Carolina 13-7.
The Senators’ hard work paid off again late in the period as Jason Spezza gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead on a power play opportunity at 18:36 on a set-up from Colin Greening and Gonchar, who collected his second assist on the night.
During the second intermission, one would have expected the Hurricanes to prepare themselves to come out blazing in the third period right from the start, with a comeback in mind.
However, that didn’t happen.
Instead, Carolina moved at an anemic pace that didn’t afford them any tangible opportunities and was coupled with choppy play that favored the Senators’ game plan.
“They were very comfortable playing that game,” Maurice said of the Senators’ play. “We really didn’t generate enough speed in the neutral zone to sustain that kind of attack to forecheck the puck. It was a tough, filthy, grinding game.”
As time on the clock was winding down throughout the third period, it seemed as though all hope for a miracle comeback would be lost.
Carolina didn’t take its first shot on Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson until the nine-minute mark.
As play continued on, at 4:32 of the third period, Tuomo Ruutu finally beat Anderson at the edge of the crease while cleaning up an ignored icing play that originated on a Jay Harrison dump-in beyond the center line.
All of a sudden, the 12,000-plus fans in attendance at the RBC Center were reinvigorated and more so when Ottawa’s David Rundblad received a holding penalty on Jeff Skinner with 2:37 remaining in the period.
Having already gone 0-3 on the power play up to that point in the game, it only took the Hurricanes six seconds to convert on the opportunity as Jamie McBain’s shot from the point hit Jeff Skinner as he crossed in front of Anderson and trickled into the net to tie the score at 2-2.
Eric Staal’s win in the faceoff circle on the play credited him with an assist on the extra-man goal.
With the entire building fully engaged and booming, both teams played to a draw by the end of regulation time and headed into overtime.
Extra minutes, extra shots
Carolina outshot Ottawa 6-1 during the five-minute overtime period of play as Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen both had legitimate attempts in winning the game for the Hurricanes, but to no avail as the bonus period finished scoreless.
Both teams headed into the shootout with Carolina seeking to break a two-game losing streak while Ottawa sought to extend their two-game win streak.
Both teams traded rounds of shooters as Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen were both denied by Anderson at his end while Cam Ward snubbed Milan Michalek, but couldn’t stop Jason Spezza’s snapper through his pads that gave the Senators the advantage after four shooters.
The Hurricanes’ final chance to extend the shootout and opportunity to finish the comeback rested with Tuomo Ruutu.
As he coasted toward Anderson, Ruutu’s quick stop and move to his backhand did not find any room to slide the puck past the Ottawa keeper.
After the thrill is gone
As quickly as the energy in the RBC Center had built back up; it died abruptly in the losing effort.
Carolina escaped with a point in a game that seemed to be lost after the second period.
Call it a ‘grinding and filthy game’. Call it frustrating to follow. Call it whatever you want.
Though not a sexy and exhilarating game to watch from start to finish, it illustrated exactly what Carolina Hurricanes hockey is right now – inconsistent and unpredictable.
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