Last night's game was a good chance for the Hurricanes to get a win. They were going up against a Rangers team who just played an overtime game the previous night, had to travel and were starting the same goalie in a back-to-back situation on top of that. This seemed like a good chance for the Canes to right the sinking ship that is their season, but as you probably know, nothing has been going their way as of late and that trend continued last night. They outplayed a tired Rangers team during five-on-five play and ended up losing 4-1 because of a few reasons with the biggest one being the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. He was a brick wall last night, stopping 48 of 49 shots and 27 of 28 scoring chances. Goalies usually perform poorly in back-to-back starts, but I guess that rule doesn't apply to the King.
If you had flashbacks to the Tampa Bay game where Ben Bishop stoned the Hurricanes then I don't blame you because Lundqvist was just as good, if not better. It might be a tough sell to fans to say that goaltending was the difference in a 4-1 loss, but it was when you consider how much the Hurricanes controlled play at even strength. The Canes did basically everything they could to beat Lundqvist and couldn't solve him until the third period when they were already trailing 3-0. When you are facing a goalie who is playing as well as Lundqvist, the margin for error becomes smaller and smaller by the game, which makes mistakes like Dan Ellis vacating the net to give Ryan Callahan an open goal to shoot at hurt so much more.
That's just the way things have gone for the Hurricanes as of late, though. They managed to put up a huge offensive performance without their best winger in the lineup and don't get rewarded for it because they ran into an elite goaltender. It's frustrating to watch from a fan's standpoint and I can bet the players are probably even more infuriated with how the last three games have turned out. The Hurricanes probably deserved better than the 4-1 loss they took but they also made a lot of mistakes to help seal their fate.
New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes 4/6/13
You can see here that the Hurricanes were the better team during even strength play, which was to be expected since they were the rested team while the Rangers played the previous night. The one area where the Hurricanes got grossly outplayed was during special teams as neither their powerplay or penalty kill performed well. A little under 20 minutes of this game was played at 5-on-4 and the Rangers were able to catapult themselves in front of the Hurricanes by making them pay for their mistakes on the powerplay. That's where they scored two of their goals and how the Rangers were able to take control of this game during the second period.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes did little to nothing with their powerplay opportunities and it came back to haunt them yet again. Like I said earlier, they probably deserved better than what they got in this game but they also put themselves into a hole with poor special teams play and that will usually be the dagger when you are unable to score no matter how hard you try. The only goal the Rangers scored at even strength was the one where Ellis vacated the net, which sums up how the last three weeks have gone for this team pretty well. They can't buy a break and make too many mistakes in their own end.
Hurricanes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Zac Dalpe +8
Worst EV Forwards: Chad LaRose & Tuomo Ruutu -1
Best EV Defenseman: Bobby Sanguinetti +6
Worst EV Defensemen: Brett Bellemore & Marc-Andre Bergeron EVEN
They may have come away with only one goal to show for it, but the Canes put together quite an impressive offensive performance last night. They had a season high 28 scoring chances and 21 of them came at even strength alone. This was without Alexander Semin, too. Usually, this is enough to get you at least three goals but Lundqvist had other plans. I thought Jeff Skinner was the team's best player by the eye-test and he did more than enough to try to get on the scoresheet, creating six of the Hurricanes scoring chances and doing a fantastic job of creating offense. I really do not buy any of the talk that he is "slumping" right now because he is playing well without getting rewarded for it. It's frustrating, but I don't think anyone who watches him can say that he is "slumping" right now. The goals are going to come to him eventually.
Skinner did come away with an assist, though as he got the main helper on Zac Dalpe's goal in the third period. Skinner also made the entire play happen by forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and creating a transition chance with Dalpe & Eric Staal. As much as it would have been nice for Skinner to score, Dalpe was also long overdue for a goal and he was terrific last night. Despite playing only nine in a half minutes at even strength, Dalpe was on-ice for nine Carolina scoring chances and created four of his own. Hopefully he can stay up with the big club now that he has a goal to his name.
Dalpe also got a look on the first line during the third period, which actually had a good night despite missing a key piece in Alex Semin. Staal had one of his better games in recent memory and was playing like a man possessed during the first period. Dwyer also did a nice job filling in at Semin's right wing spot with one of his better offensive performances of the year. The entire forward corps did their part to pitch in when needed as all but one player (LaRose) was on-ice for at least three scoring chances and everyone in the top-six was on-ice for at least six.
Most of the defense corps did a fine job at even strength with the exception of Marc-Andre Bergeron who was on-ice for five New York chances despite starting nine of his 5v5 draws in the offensive zone. Other than that, no one in particular played very poorly while the terms were even. The penalty kill was a different story. Harrison, McBain, Brent, Staal and Bellemore all could not to do much to limit the Rangers powerplay. McBain had a huge blunder on the first Ranger goal, as he left the slot wide open for some reason and Derek Stepan swooped in to take full advantage of that. It's a shame that happened because McBain had a pretty solid game outside of that.
Rangers Individual Scoring Chances
|4||Michael Del Zotto||16:19||1||9||4:22||5||1||4:11||0||1|
Best EV Forwards: Brad Richards, Mats Zuccarello & Ryane Clowe +4
Worst EV Forward: Carl Hagelin -12
Best EV Defenseman: Anton Stralman +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Dan Girardi -10
The Hurricanes managed to do something not many teams have been able to do and that's make Carl Hagelin completely invisible. He is usually one of the first players I notice when I watch the Rangers but he was completely neutralized during 5v5 play last night. I don't know if it was score effects or new linemates, but he definitely had one of the poorest games I can remember him playing. Of course, this didn't hurt the Rangers too much because Brad Richards' line came up big at even strength. Richards has given the Hurricanes a lot of problems since signing with the Rangers last season and he continued that last night.
Most of the Rangers players had very poor outings at even strength, but they were able to make up for it on special teams. Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Derick Brassard were all completely dominated during 5v5 play, but the former two were able to shut down the Hurricanes powerplay while Brassard did some major damage during the Rangers man advantage opportunities. Seeing how one-third of this game was played at special teams, that was enough to off-set the damage they took at even strength.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Muller went an interesting route with the matchups last night, putting Eric Staal's line against Derek Stepan while Jordan Staal was primarily lined up against Brad Richards. Richards is the better center of the two but plays with weaker linemates, so I thought this was an odd decision at the time and it didn't end up working out at all. Richards' line was the only one in the black for the Rangers and Jordan Staal was only able to drive the play when he was away from this unit. Harrison/Bellemore were also assigned the Richards line and they ended up getting crushed while Gleason/Corvo kept Stepan, Nash & Callahan in check for the most part.
|2||NYR||18:00||Stepan – GOAL||11||39||4||44||31||16||19||21||29||6||30||4v5|
|2||NYR||8:41||Nash – GOAL||37||21||44||73||31||21||36||24||61||4||30||4v5|
|3||CAR||10:33||Dalpe – GOAL||12||22||53||44||77||35||16||22||62||5||27||30||5v5|