RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t take control off the draw early, nor much at all, and they suffered for it.
As a result, it cost them an opportunity to pull closer to a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference standings, losing 4-1 to the previous-cellar-dwellers-now-hot Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
Carolina’s lack of establishing puck possession and inability to penetrate the Senators defense anchored by a 33-save effort from goaltender Anders Nilsson ended a recent five-game win streak at home.
“They were playin’ good and playin’ stingy,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said.
“Their D were stayin’ up, their forwards had good gaps on us. You look at the third period there, they said, ‘go ahead, try and get through five of us’.”
Scoring engine stalled
Rookie forward Warren Foegele was the Hurricanes’ lone scorer on the night as a valiant effort in net from Petr Mrazek, who made 22 saves, went unsupported on the front end.
In order, goals from Magnus Paajarvi, Bobby Ryan, Mark Stone and Christian Wolanin was enough to outdistance the Senators from a Carolina squad that struggled to score.
Paajarvi’s fourth of the season gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
Ryan and Stone scored 13 seconds apart just before the eight-minute mark of the second and put the Hurricanes in a deep hole they couldn’t climb out of.
While Foegele’s sixth goal of the season pulled Carolina to within two, Wolanin’s third goal of the year provided enough of a cushion for the Senators to ride out a scoreless third and earn their fourth win in five games and only seventh on the road this season.
“We had some good shifts in their end, but they were far and few between; and you can’t have that, especially when they’re scorin’,” Martinook added.
“We’re a forecheckin’ team and for the first two periods we weren’t.”
Taking your face off
Ottawa dominated in the faceoff circle winning 64 percent of faceoffs throughout.
Chris Tierney (14-of-18), Matt Duchesne (9-of-12), and J.G. Pageau (6-of-13) helped the Senators establish possession often enough that kept Carolina puck-chasing all night.
Even while the Hurricanes outshot the Senators by a 34-26 margin, their inability to do the work needed over the faceoff dots cost them.
Most notably, Sebastian Aho and Lucas Wallmark finished 5-of-18 and 2-of-9 in faceoff wins, respectively.
“We didn’t start with the puck ever,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“We didn’t win a faceoff all the whole night. That’s part of it for me. You gotta start with the puck. Most of the time (it’s a team effort), but if you’re losin’ ‘em clean, then it’s tough.”
Even while trading center Victor Rask for winger Nino Niederreiter the day before, Brind’Amour reminded media that the absence of center Jordan Staal was starting to show its significance.
“You gotta remember we’re missin’ the big guy here,” he said.
“This is the stuff that starts to creep in. I’ve been sayin’ it for a long time, but that’s the guy who takes 30 faceoffs a night for us and who hasn’t been there for a while. And now, the deficiencies we’re havin’ are creepin’ in on us. Tonight, it was evident.”
You’re in my way
Twenty-seven blocked shots on the part of the Ottawa defense coupled with Nilsson’s six-foot-six-inch frame and agility to make the remaining stops denied and frustrated Carolina’s offensive attack.
While playing a heavier game with 25 hits, including a fighting major from Micheal Ferland, and claiming 12 takeaways, the Hurricanes couldn’t connect much, let alone enough to outscore the Senators.
They also didn’t give Mrazek much, if any defensive support.
“I give them the credit; they got to their game right away and we fought to get to our game and never did,’ Brind’Amour said.
“It’s tough for this time of year to have a game like that. That’s really the disappointing part for me. We’re gonna have to pick up the pieces tomorrow and get back to work and fix all that. That’s just disappointing.”
Something doesn’t feel right
Losing their second in as many games after posting seven wins, the Hurricanes made it tougher on themselves in trying to pull closer in the league table.
Captain Justin Williams said it succinctly enough.
“Losing these last two (games) stings.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport