By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes had their work cut out for them at PNC Arena on Sunday night.
The visiting Winnipeg Jets, led by Patrik Laine, handed the Hurricanes a 3-2 loss as 11,407 in attendance looked on.
The Finnish forward tallied two goals and an assist, and prompted Carolina head coach Bill Peters to concur that he’s one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL.
“Right now, it sure seems like it,” he said.
“I haven’t seen enough of him live, and that maybe is a good thing, but he was sure dangerous tonight.”
While Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal scored for Carolina, Laine’s two-goal performance along with a single from Paul Stastny was enough to deny the Hurricanes a third straight win.
Both teams amply carved up all sections of the ice surface, battling for puck possessions and banging bodies along the boards throughout.
Winnipeg’s modest 23-shot count nicked goaltender Cam Ward for a goal each period, while at the other end, netminder Connor Hellebuyck held up exceptionally well and made 33 stops to post the win over the Hurricanes.
The loss dropped Carolina out of the NHL Eastern Conference wildcard spot it briefly held following a 3-1 win over New Jersey on Friday.
Laine paced the Jets offense early during each of the first two periods.
His low slap shot from the high slot put Winnipeg up at the 5:40 mark of the first which Teravainen eventually matched with his 18th goal of the season late in the period.
With an almost identical shot from the same distance from the top of the circle to Ward’s right, Laine’s second goal, this time on the power play, gave Winnipeg the lead back 2:37 into the second period.
Carolina struggled to beat Hellebuyck throughout the frame, at both even strength and with the man-advantage, finishing 0-for-3 on the power play overall.
“Specialty teams were huge,” Peters pointed out.
“We were minus-one tonight in a one-goal loss. I’d say that’s the difference in the hockey game.”
Stastny’s goal, which was weirdly queued up following a shot off the crossbar that subsequently deflected off the referee before the Jets forward snapped the puck into a gaping net, put Carolina further behind, 3-1, at the 10:06 mark of the third.
Staal pulled the Hurricanes closer just under six minutes later, the closest they would get despite pulling Ward for the extra skater with a minute remaining.
“We had a lot of chances, but we couldn’t quite get to three,” Staal said.
“They made it hard to get to the net. They made great plays like good teams do, and we need to find a way to win some games.”
What’s the Skinny?
Of note, forwards Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho put six and five shots, respectively on the Jets net, but couldn’t negate the one-goal deficit the Hurricanes chased all game.
While Aho earned an assist on Teravainen’s goal, his 100th NHL career point, Skinner finished without a point.
Though unable to help Carolina pull even, he looked more the scoring threat than he has in recent games, a critical factor to this team’s chances in winning games during this playoff push.
“I had some pretty good shifts the first couple of periods,” Skinner said.
“I created some chances, but just couldn’t get one. I felt like we had good jump. The line was playing well. The D were doing a good job jumping up in the rush, feedin’ the transition game and we were able to get in on the forecheck and cause some turnovers. Just couldn’t bury one though.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport