RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes got behind early and didn’t have enough jump to keep up to the Winnipeg Jets, and as a result suffered a 3-1 loss at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Forward Elias Lindholm scored his sixth goal of the season, but Carolina couldn’t put together any more offense, being outshot 37-23, and unable to support the effort of goaltender Cam Ward’s 34-save performance.
“Usually we have more energy than we had tonight,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t have a lot of energy and never really got goin’.”
Carolina came into the game riding a six-game unbeaten streak, and sought to avenge an earlier 3-1 loss at Winnipeg back on Oct. 21.
However, success in facets of the game that the Hurricanes had experienced since beating Arizona on Nov. 1 to start their recent run, disappeared against the Jets.
They lost on the draw – winning only 25-of-56 faceoffs.
They couldn’t move the puck freely up and through the neutral zone, whether passing or stickhandling it, and couldn’t score enough by finishing scoring opportunities they put together.
Winnipeg basically beat Carolina at its own game, being a fast-skating and swarming opponent that limited opportunities to catch up, and went home the victor in the two teams’ final matchup of the season.
“I don’t think we had any pace to our game,” Peters continued.
“I thought we had a real hard time executing. Credit to them – they did clog it up. It was tight. There wasn’t a lot of space. Everything was behind guys. Everything was in their feet when they’re presenting a target and it ends up on the back hand and they gotta’ stickhandle. We played slow. Give them credit – they were above us. They made it hard – some big guys – and they did a good job.”
The Jets’ high energy forecheck kept Ward busy as he faced eight shots within the first 10 minutes of play, while opposing goaltender Michael Hutchinson only fielded one puck during the same time.
Blake Wheeler scored both of Winnipeg’s goals, his sixth and seventh of the season, and helped to keep the lead out of Carolina’s reach and allowed Hutchinson to earn his second win.
Wheeler opened the game’s scoring by tipping a point shot from Mark Stuart into the net and put Winnipeg ahead 1-0 at the 5:29 mark of the first period.
Carolina didn’t show much of a threat on its first power play of the game just 19 seconds later when Wheeler ended up in the penalty box for goaltender interference.
It went that way for most of the period while Ward made repeated saves to keep his team within one through the first intermission.
On Carolina’s second power play early the second period, Lindholm took advantage of his spot below the goal line when his attempted wrap attempt on Hutchinson banked off Stuart in the crease and past the netminder to tie the game 1-1 at 3:44.
Looking as if they had turned the corner during the first 10 minutes of the period, the Hurricanes won more faceoffs and made Hutchinson work harder.
With Carolina struggling to beat Hutchinson, Wheeler then scored again just over ten minutes later.
He tipped another point shot, similar to his first goal, this time a Zach Bogosian blast that went past Ward and put the Jets ahead 2-1 with 6:58 remaining.
“He’s a big-body guy,” Ward said of Wheeler.
“Obviously he’s got some good hand-eye coordination because he planted himself in front of me. So not only is it difficult to see the shot from the point, but I believe both were going well wide and he redirected it with his stick. It’s tough when those things happen, but sometimes you can’t control that.”
With the chances that Carolina did get, exceptional defensive efforts from the Jets denied them any opportunity to score for the rest of the game.
After taking a slashing penalty early in the third which the Hurricanes killed off, Nathan Gerbe got a breakaway pass coming out of the box from Eric Staal.
While skating ahead of Bogosian and defensive partner Jacob Trouba, Gerbe couldn’t get a shot off as Bogosian got his stick on the puck while diving for it and batting it away.
The line of Patrick Dwyer, Jay McClement, and Brad Malone created the biggest threat to the Jets defense halfway through the third when it drew a penalty to Stuart that gave Carolina its final man-advantage opportunity of the game.
While the Jets defenseman sat in the box for hooking, the Hurricanes tried to get some semblance of attack together to beat Hutchinson, but he was ready and squared up to stop each of the repeated shots he faced from Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, who both finished with a team-high four shots on goal apiece.
Luck was not on Carolina’s side to pull out another comeback tie and/or win on this night.
With three minutes remaining, Lindholm had the best chance to do so, but couldn’t connect on a pass in front from Riley Nash as Bogosian got a stick on his back leg and caused him to fan on the puck.
Michael Frolick eventually scored the final goal of the game, an empty-netter, and sealed the Jets win.
“We were stubborn early,” Peters said.
“We wouldn’t put pucks in behind them to make their D turn. We were tryin’ to make plays when plays weren’t there. Then, when there were opportunities to make plays, we didn’t execute.”
Notes: With an assist on Lindholm’s goal, Nash posted his seventh point in seven games, dating back to Nov. 1…Centers Eric Staal, McClement, Victor Rask, and Nash ended up winning 83, 43, 40, and 35 percent of their faceoffs…Carolina gave away the puck 13 times with three players – Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin – responsible for seven of them.