RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes hadn’t lost at home to the Ottawa Senators in 12 previous games.
However, the luck of the Irish wasn’t on Carolina’s side this St. Patrick’s Day as Ottawa’s Mark Stone scored with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to win the game 2-1.
“I thought it was an excellent game,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I just watched the overtime again. That’s one of the most exciting overtimes I’ve been a part of.”
It was as evenly contested a game it could be.
Elias Lindholm scored for Carolina (26-34-9) while goaltender Anton Khudobin made 31 saves in the losing effort.
In addition to Stone, Patrick Wiercioch tallied Ottawa’s lone goal in regulation time as goalkeeper Andrew Hammond made an impressive showing, stopping 35 shots to earn the win
Ottawa (34-24-11) was 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, thanks to the effort of Hammond, and the win brought them that much closer to a wildcard playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings – sitting four points behind the Boston Bruins.
It was an entertaining goaltender duel in front of 13,469 in attendance as Khudobin and Hammond made end-to-end stops from start to finish.
“I expected that,” Khudobin said.
“I knew they were going to come – they’re trying to make the playoffs. The guys did a helluva job. They sealed out a lot of players, so I could see the puck. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win though.”
Coming into the game, Hammond had become somewhat of a celebrity around the league for his play since being called up from the American Hockey League in late February.
Nicknamed the Hamburglar during his collegiate career playing for the Bowling Green Falcons, the Ottawa keeper extended his record to 11-0-1 while allowing two or fewer goals, a mark that tied him with former Bruins keeper and Hall of Famer Frank Brimsek who established the mark of 12 games back in 1938.
While setting himself in rare company, he challenged Carolina’s shooters to pick just the right spot to beat him.
That’s what Lindholm did at 12:59 of the opening period.
He scored his 16th of the season on a cross-zone feed from Jeff Skinner to put the Hurricanes ahead 1-0.
Skinner recorded his 100th career assist on the play that began with defenseman John-Michael Liles making a tape-to-tape breakout pass to him at the center line.
Skinner gained the Ottawa zone and found Lindholm streaking down the right side.
Lindholm’s wrist shot handcuffed Hammond.
It was the only puck that would get behind him for the rest of the night.
“He made a couple of nice saves,” Skinner said.
“I don’t think we got the shots we wanted in the second. He made some big saves when they needed them. We just couldn’t find that second one.”
At the other end, Khudobin did yeoman’s work in denying numerous scoring opportunities and frustrating Milan Michalek who recorded a game-high six shots on goal – each of them denied by the Russian netminder.
However, while playing two men down on the penalty kill, Khudobin couldn’t stop a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that Wiercioch unleashed to tie the game 1-1 with 6:38 to play in the second.
Brad Malone and Justin Faulk both watched it happen from the penalty box, entering less than a minute apart for high sticking and delay of game infractions respectively.
The Sens’ David Legwand beat Jay McClement off the draw and just as Malone stepped back onto the ice, Ottawa worked the puck from the left as Mika Zibanejad slid it to Erik Karlsson who then lined Wiercioch up with the pass to beat Khudobin, low to his blocker side.
Ottawa outworked Carolina throughout the period, and it was Khudobin who ensured that the Senators’ efforts weren’t rewarded further.
The score remained tied at the end of two.
Ottawa had outshot Carolina 23-15 up to that point.
While the Senators finished 1-for-3 on the power play, Carolina couldn’t take advantage of two separate man-up opportunities.
With the chance to take the lead, the second power play came early in the third, but Hammond came up with back-to-back saves on teed up shots from Jordan Staal from the right faceoff dot that maintained the deadlock.
Skinner, Michal Jordan, and Victor Rask all tried, but couldn’t beat Hammond during the first eight minutes of play in the period.
“He’s playing pretty well,” Skinner said.
“There weren’t many second or third chances. I think that their team plays pretty well in front of him.”
With just over five minutes remaining, it looked as though Nathan Gerbe would score.
The compact and shifty forward weaved through three Sens players before getting tied up by Wiercioch and ended up falling into Hammond after getting an off-balance shot attempt off.
Two minutes later, as Liles streaked towards a rebound that Hammond put out to his right, Curtis Lazar landed on the back of Liles’ right leg and both players slid behind the net tangled up together.
Liles was visibly injured on the play, writhing in pain as play continued on around him, and with no ensuing penalty call to come.
He skated off the ice, putting very little pressure on his right leg.
Michalek continued to experience frustration as Khudobin made another save while Gerbe trailed on the play.
Both players followed through and Gerbe threw the Ottawa forward into the boards, and both eventually wrestled each other to the ice.
They were sent to the box for roughing and play continued on with four players aside.
Neither team scored during regulation.
It could have been over just as quickly as it started in overtime.
Barely 30 seconds in, Hammond was caught out of position in his crease on a goal-mouth scramble, but his defensemen cleared the puck successfully..
At the other end, Khudobin once again stuffed Michalek who tried to wrap the puck in from the left side.
With less than a minute to play, and a shootout imminent, Kyle Turris gained the zone and worked the puck down the left side, turned Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy around, and headed towards Khudobin.
Looking to shoot, the netminder set his position, but the Ottawa forward made an intelligent drop pass that allowed Stone to come in and score the game-winner.
It was the only shot of the night for the right winger and the one that made the difference as Khudobin couldn’t react in time to make another save.
“He (Turris) was right in front of me,” Khudobin said.
“I thought he might get the shot or he was going to go around me, so I was waiting. He made a pretty good play and I guess I wasn’t stretching (across) enough.”
Even while coming up with another loss at home, Peters wasn’t disappointed with his team’s effort.
“I thought both goaltenders made big saves,” he said.
“We had a couple of breakdowns during the first part of the game that Dobby was big on, and in the overtime, both guys had to make a few saves. I thought all-in-all, it was a very good hockey game.”
Notes: Carolina’s penalty kill continued to experience shortfalls giving up its eighth goal in the last six games…It was a matchup that bode well for the Hurricanes in the past, taking points in 16 of 19 games played between the two teams previously. However, the loss denied the Hurricanes a sweep of the Sens on the season after previously claiming 3-2 (Jan. 17) and 6-3 (Feb. 16) wins…In that Feb. 16 game, Hammond came in for Robin Lehner, played just under 21 minutes and allowed two goals on five shots.