By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – For the Carolina Hurricanes, it was all about the doing the little things to perfection.
The task of trying to outlast and beat the visiting New Jersey Devils to regain a wildcard spot in the NHL Eastern Conference standings came up incomplete.
In the end, the Hurricanes lost 3-2 as Taylor Hall scored with 22.7 seconds remaining in overtime and deflated the energy of a sold-out crowd of 18,680 at PNC Arena on Sunday.
Teuvo Teravainen and Jeff Skinner scored for the Hurricanes, the only production from a 42-shot barrage that New Jersey goalkeeper Keith Kincaid faced in earning the win.
Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha led New Jersey’s offense during regulation and beat Carolina starter Cam Ward on the 21 shots he faced.
Though earning a point, now with 64 total, the Hurricanes fell six points behind the Devils, but were tied with the New York Islanders, a squad they were shut out 3-0 against two nights earlier.
“We gifted them both their goals,” head coach Bill Peters said.
“We got a point, right? Probably the only positive that we’ll take from that.”
Power it up
Special teams play came up short for Carolina, ending the night 0-for-3, while Hischier’s 13th goal of the season opened the game’s scoring, finding the top corner past Ward while defenseman Brett Pesce sat in the penalty box for holding.
“The power play wasn’t as good tonight as we would have liked,” Peters said.
“Didn’t generate as many chances as it has here recently, so that’s an area that could have helped us here tonight.”
A game of inches
A turnover in the neutral zone led to New Jersey’s go-ahead goal late in the second period.
An errant pass from Derek Ryan missed Justin Williams in the neutral zone and led to Devils’ defenseman John Moore picking the puck up along the right boards.
Skating into the Carolina zone, Moore centered a pass to a wide-open Zacha in the slot who redirected the puck into a gaping net as Ward had overcommitted to what Moore initially presented off the rush.
The Devils carried- the 2-1 advantage into the third.
“I was trying to get it to Willy and I think he probably could’ve stopped on it, but he thought there was a D(-man) back there, so he kind of over-skated it. Then both of us are lookin’ back and there’s nobody back there and all-of-a-sudden there’s a 3-on-1. Bad play by probably everybody on the ice.”
Déjà vu all over again
Recent losses to the Devils and New York Islanders, Thursday and Friday, along with this falter undid much of the work that the Hurricanes put forth to grab possession of a wildcard spot.
Now, instead of holding onto what they worked so hard to earn, they fell back onto the treadmill chase for it once again.
Even with Skinner scoring his 20th goal of the season with 1:18 remaining in the third, and eventually earning a point, Carolina is back in a familiar spot.
Ryan pointed out that the message following such a loss wasn’t different than what the team has been preaching and following all season.
“We’re at our best when we’re playing at a high level, executing our game plan, and playing with lots of pace.
“If we continue to that, I like our chances. We just have to play our best every game and give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Running low, if not on empty
Peters liked the team’s 5-on-5 play, but remained frustrated with the lack of goal production, particularly in closely-contested games.
It wasn’t a new revelation from him and a problem that has cost the Hurricanes points in the standings.
“We’ve gotta find a way to score.
“We don’t score easy by the looks of it. It’s a fine line, obviously, and tonight we didn’t find a way to get the big goal.”
From his perspective, Ryan pointed out that the Devils just executed better and earned the win as a result.
“It was just one of those games where it came down to the little things.
“They did the little things a little bit better than we did.”
Notables: Skinner’s goal was the 200th of his career, making him the fifth player in franchise history to reach that milestone next to Ron Francis, Eric Staal, Kevin Dineen, and Blaine Stoughton…Center Victor Rask played his 300th NHL game, all with the Hurricanes, since being drafted in the second round, 42nd overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport