RALEIGH, N.C. – At this point in the season, if you don’t have it, no one is going to give it to you.
When the Carolina Hurricanes finished with the Anaheim Ducks at PNC Arena on Friday night, a 2-1 overtime loss, a loser point was what they walked away with.
A goal from Sebastian Aho was the only offensive contribution to the result, despite a 35-save performance from starting goaltender James Reimer.
Sam Steel’s breakaway marker made the difference 96 seconds into overtime as the Ducks took home the win with Erik Gudbrandson’s goal and a 25-save finish from netminder Ryan Miller a part of it all.
It was not the same effort Carolina put forth in a 3-2 loss the night before in Columbus.
An early lead against the Ducks was unsustainable.
“The start was fine, generated a bit of offense, and then they just took over,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“They were the much better team. We just couldn’t get out of our own way really. We couldn’t get out of our own end clean – just too much time trying to defend. I don’t think we were sharp. That was clearly evident.”
Facing the reality of losing All-Star selection in defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the result of a broken fibula suffered late in the game against the Blue Jackets, Carolina had to make pairing adjustments accordingly against Anaheim.
It looked positive early on as Aho tipped in Joel Edmundson’s point shot for his 24th goal of the season at the 3:59 mark of the first period.
Establishing an early lead was something the Hurricanes had trouble doing in recent games.
Even with that, keeping it lasted just under 15 minutes when Gudbranson scored his fourth of the season.
Both teams looked as they were playing an even game, but the Ducks outworked and kept the Hurricanes from getting into their comfort zone for the remainder of it.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league in plays coming from the slot, shot attempts, shots for, and they’ve been that way for a long time,” Ducks coach Dallis Eakins said.
“We wanted to defend the neutral zone as much as we could and force as many dumps as possible, and we would just get the puck back for free.”
While being outshot during the final two periods by a 24-10 margin, the few Grade-A chances the Hurricanes had were handled by Miller and his team in front of him.
“They have a pretty big D corps over there. We did get shots through and that’s definitely when we did our damage, but they made it hard to get to the net,” Carolina defenseman Jaacob Slavin pointed out.
Averaging a goal per game during this current three-game winless slide, Carolina knows it’s making matters worse in terms of staying in playoff contention.
While the point was helpful to maintain a hold on the first Wild Card position in the NHL standings, the trend in the Hurricanes’ game must change direction.
“We’re gonna need everyone to pull the rope a little more, including myself,” captain Jordan Staal said.
“We gotta find ways to be better. That wasn’t there tonight. We need another level if we wanna make the push here.”
Notables: Carolina finished 0-2 on the power play, 32-148 (21.6%) overall…On the PK, the Hurricanes went 2-2, 140-169 (82.8%) overall…While Hamilton underwent successful surgery to repair a fractured fibula in his left leg earlier in the day, the game against Anaheim ended his consecutive games played streak at 255… After tonight, the Hurricanes are now 6-3-0 in the first game and 5-4-0 in the second game of back-to-backs.
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