Generally speaking, the Hurricanes have done a pretty good job of outplaying their opponents this year or at least keeping things relatively even against them. The wins haven't been coming as often as fans would like but the Canes have had more good games than bad this year by my account. Tonight's game against Ottawa had all the makings of being one of the worst games the Canes have played all year. They gave up 47 shots, were outplayed at even strength and struggled to get the puck out of their zone for most of the game. Despite all of that, they were able to tie the game late in the third period on the back of a goal by Alexander Semin and finish off Ottawa in overtime.
The Hurricanes have been on the losing end of games likes this before, where they outplay the opposition for the majority of the game but end up taking the loss thanks to either bad luck, poor special teams or running into a hot goalie. Tonight, the Canes were outshot 47-26 but went perfect on the penalty kill, went 1/2 on the powerplay and Cam Ward came up big more than a few times in stopping 45 shots. It was definitely what most people would consider an "ugly win" but it's been awhile since the Hurricanes have won a game like this.
You don't want to make a habit out of winning games like this but the Hurricanes will take the two points regardless and move onwards towards a re-match with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon.
Corey's Ten Thoughts
– The first line was faced with a tough assignment tonight going up against one of the league's best defensemen in Erik Karlsson. They were able to get the better of him in the last meeting, but Karlsson more than did his job this time around. The reigning Norris trophy candidate not only scored a goal and had 11 shots on goal (18 shots attempted) but he also kept the Tlusty-E. Staal-Semin line in check by holding them to only three total shots on goal. They probably did an even better job when you exclude all of the shots Semin had on the powerplay. The first line had an off-night by their standards but a large part of that was due to the spectacular play by Karlsson and Marc Methot. Even the best lines don't win their matchups on every night, so I wouldn't consider this anything to panic over.
– While the first line struggled to get much going, the second line of Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer was able to step up. They provided most of Carolina's offense tonight from my viewpoint and were one of the few lines who were actually able to get the play going north. Jordan Staal was the one who was doing the bulk of the heavy lifting with 6 shots on goal and 9 total shot attempts, but Skinner also had a few good chances. These two also played a huge role in Jay Harrison's overtime winner. Skinner did a great job of out-muscling the defenseman to get the puck to Jordan Staal, who got a shot on net and Harrison picked up the loose change. It wasn't a marquee night but they came up big when they needed to.
– For the second game in a row, Cam Ward takes home the first star honors. The Daniel Alfredsson goal he let in from a terrible angel was bad, but outside of that, Ward was fantastic. He recorded his second 40+ save performance of the week and made a few very big stops on Ottawa in the second period. The Hurricanes wouldn't have been in a position to win this game if it wasn't for his play in the second period where he stopped 16 of 17 shots by Ottawa. Hopefully the team won't have to rely on him as much for the remainder of the road trip, but it's always nice to have a goaltender who can bail your team out of bad situations as Ward did tonight.
– The Hurricanes defense is going to walk away with a blemish on their record after surrendering 47 shots to the Senators tonight, 38 of them coming at even strength. However, I think that this might end up being a bit overblown because Ottawa was taking a lot of their shots from the perimeter and there were a good handful of shots where Ward wasn't not tested much. The fact that the puck was in Carolina's end for over 60% of the time is a very bad thing but the Hurricanes defense did an okay job of keeping Ottawa out of the dangerous scoring areas. That and Ottawa tendency to constantly take shots from the point with no traffic in front.
– It was good to see the Hurricanes third line finally produce a goal when Drayson Bowman connected with Chad LaRose on a beautiful stretch pass to spring him for a breakaway. I've been waiting for this line to step up and they definitely looked better tonight than they have the rest of the season. They still weren't able to establish much zone time but LaRose and Bowman created a couple of good chances at least.
– After the Toronto game, I said that the Hurricanes special teams got lucky but that wasn't the case tonight with the powerplay. The Hurricanes had only two opportunities with the man advantage tonight but they took full advantage of both. They could have easily took a 1-0 lead in the first period but fell victim to a few bad bounces when Alexander Semin hit the post on two scoring chances and Jussi Jokinen had a rebound jump over his stick. They made sure to cash in on their second opportunity, though when Semin connected on a one-timer from the slot to tie the game at two in the third period. This is more of what fans expected from the Canes powerplay.
– The penalty kill, on the other hand, may have gotten a bit lucky. They killed off all three Ottawa powerplays but gave up a lot of shots and nearly gave up the game-winning goal late in the third period had Kyle Turris' shot not gone off the post. Their road PK likely isn't as bad as what they've shown so far, so maybe they were due for a couple of bounces?
– Eric Staal added yet another point to his totals after providing the primary assist on Semin's goal but the Senators were able to neutralize him at even strength for most of the game. His line also got caught deep on Erik Karlsson's goal, which led to an odd-man rush the other way. Jamie McBain also had a slip-up in the neutral zone and failed to clear the puck, but the odd-man rush doesn't happen if the forwards don't get caught deep. Defensive lapses like this have been rare from the first line this year but it was a pretty ugly play. I also think it shows just how dangerous Ottawa is when Karlsson is on his game.
– Jay Harrison's goal was the definition of being in the right place at the right time but I thought he played a solid game aside from that. He and Bobby Sanguinetti did a fine job of not allowing too many chances against and didn't have many noticeable errors. This was actually the first game Sanguinetti has played in where I didn't notice any mental mistakes on his part. It's exactly what he needs to do if he wants to stay in the lineup.
– Continuing a trend from the Toronto game, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner led the team in ice-time at even strength with over 19 minutes played. They were the better line tonight, so this isn't too surprising but it's still a little surprising to not see Eric Staal not be at the top of the leader board in ice-time. At the same time, it's also nice having more players who can handle big minutes and take some weight off the captain's shoulders. Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner were able to do that tonight.
There are going to be a lot of people tomorrow saying that the Hurricanes "stole" this win and the truth is that statement is pretty accurate. Ottawa was the better team tonight but the better team doesn't always The Hurricanes probably know that this wasn't their best performance and will look to come out stronger in Saturday's game. Hopefully the winning the last two games can give them some confidence for the rest of the road trip and keep their record above .500.