By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes looked as though they had it in the bag, but a third-period goal gave the Anaheim Ducks the chance they needed to eventually pull out a 4-3 shootout win.
Led by a phenomenal goaltending display from Ryan Miller to shut out the Hurricanes in the third period, overtime and in the shootout, the Ducks silenced a boisterous crowd of 10,108 on hand at PNC Arena on Sunday.
With the Ducks winning three of their last four games, averaging nearly five goals a game, it was imperative for the Hurricanes’ leaders to step up following a 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Friday.
They eventually did.
Assistant captain Jeff Skinner, and co-captains Jordan Staal, and Justin Faulk churned the Carolina offense, while starter Scott Darling made 22 saves in the losing effort.
Ondrej Kase, Derek Grant, and Jakob Silfverberg scored in regulation for Anaheim while Corey Perry eventually tallied the deciding shootout marker to claim the winning point.
However, it was Miller’s performance, a 34-stop finish, including nine saves in overtime, that solidified the win for the Ducks.
Anaheim played a heavy game, dishing out 37 hits to Carolina’s 16, and early on, the Hurricanes played into the visitors’ hands, going offside numerous times, and not making smart decisions with the puck according to head coach Bill Peters.
“I would have liked to execute better,” he said.
“We went offside four times, right? Why? And where are we puttin’ pucks in order to get ’em back? Are we givin’ up pucks, or are we puttin’ them in spots to get them back? I didn’t think we did that early.”
Kase opened the scoring for the Ducks at 10:48 of the opening period when he sniped the opposite top corner over Darling from the right-side wall.
Grant extended the Anaheim lead to 2-0 at 17:14, when he beat Darling clean between the pads after the puck was redirected to him in front of the Hurricanes’ net from the right side.
Needing to cut the deficit before the first intermission, Skinner pushed in his seventh goal of the season with seven seconds remaining as Miller unsuccessfully attempted to clear the puck out of his crease with his stick.
The power play marker extended the Hurricanes scoring leader’s best 10-game start of his career.
“We let ’em come in and kind of dictate the first period,” Faulk stated.
“They got two goals and got into their early lead and then we were chasin’. Obviously, we had a better second, better third, but you can’t expect to win when teams come in and you have a chance to take it to them early and make it tough on them. We didn’t play a complete game.”
Trailing 2-1, Carolina began the second with more pace and hemmed the Ducks in their zone for much of the first eight minutes of play, peppering Miller with seven shots.
While the Ducks netminder kept busy in his end, his teammates didn’t produce as much to keep Darling as equally active.
Justin Williams missed an open net on a redirect pass that would have evened the score, but play continued with Anaheim holding onto its one-goal lead heading into the latter half of the period.
Staal evened it up 2-2 at 13:33 when he finished a tic-tac-toe setup originated by Elias Lindholm and followed by a pass from Sebastian Aho from behind the Anaheim net.
The assist was Lindholm’s 100th of his career.
With 1:27 remaining in the period, Faulk teed up a shot from the point and ended his nine-game scoreless drought with his first goal of the season.
Williams and Teuvo Teravainen assisted on the play.
Carolina carried the 3-2 lead into the third and for the first 15 minutes successfully defended numerous attempts by the Ducks to even the score.
However, with zone possession, Anaheim evened the score when Silfverberg’s shot from the top of the right circle made it through Darling’s pads with 4:48 remaining in regulation.
While Carolina had the best opportunities to win with pucks flying around Miller’s net, both teams remained tied and headed into overtime.
Miller was phenomenal in the extra period, stopping numerous breakaways, and extended the game to a shootout.
The Ducks keeper continued his dominance and denied Williams, Jaccob Slavin, and Aho all in succession, while at the other end Darling saw Ricard Rakell’s shot hit the crossbar before Perry beat him high to finalize the game in Anaheim’s favor.
“Three’s enough to win in this league,” Peters concluded.
“A lot of nights it’s 2-1 – three (goals) is enough to win, so let’s tighten up. We’re givin’ up too much. As a team we’re givin’ up too many shots, too many scoring chances. We’re givin’ up to many goals, and that’s on everybody.”
Notables: Carolina finished 1-for-3 on the power play against the Ducks, and have converted on 6-of-35 on the season…The Hurricanes are 22-12-4 all-time when Skinner scores a power-play goal…With his tally, Skinner extended his point streak to three games.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport