RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t win another shootout and lost 3-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
After losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, Carolina wasn’t able to finish the job once again and had to settle for a point against Chicago.
Coming into the two teams’ first matchup of the season, the Hurricanes had won nine of their last 12 games against the Blackhawks, including six of their last seven at home.
However, Patrick Sharp, in addition to scoring a goal, netted the shootout winner and denied the Hurricanes the chance to put the final touches on another victory.
Alexander Semin and Ron Hainsey scored a goal apiece for the Hurricanes in the third period as part of a late comeback surge.
“Really happy for the effort of our guys tonight,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.
“You play the Stanley Cup champs and they came at us in the first period. They’re a good hockey team. Give them credit. You’re down two-zip, but I really like the way the guys, our leaders, really took charge tonight, kept everyone composed, and went out and had a really good second and third period.”
Chicago opened the game’s scoring at 7:56 as Sharp won a foot race with Brett Bellemore while Michal Handzus floated a long clearing pass from deep in his end to the Carolina blue line that Sharp managed to snap high over Cam Ward’s glove.
Just after the Hurricanes finished killing off an Eric Staal penalty, a scramble in front of the Carolina net resulted in Marian Hossa sending a backhand shot past Ward’s blocker to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0 at 10:18.
The Blackhawks continued to swarm around Ward for the remainder of the period, outshooting the Hurricanes 15-5 while carrying their two-goal lead into the next period.
Even while letting in two goals, Ward, who made 34 saves on the night, played one of his best games of the season and allowed his team the time it needed to get back into it.
Ward kept his composure as Chicago’s forwards crashed through his crease throughout the game while at the other end, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who finished the game with 32 stops, remained only intermittently busy until the third period of play.
Still trailing 2-0, Carolina chipped at and around the Blackhawks defense consistently in the second and third periods, and managed to keep the puck deep in the Chicago zone until it finally paid off.
Carolina took an aggressive tact in sending defensemen Ryan Murphy and Ron Hainsey into the Blackhawks zone off the rush regularly, and increased the pressure that Crawford and his defense had to deal with.
“We said, ‘let’s keep the pressure goin’,” Muller said.
“Second and third (periods), our D made good choices about jumpin’ in and gettin’ opportunities and creating things. I thought that’s when we really started to put some pressure on them.”
In not letting up, the Hurricanes maintained their pace early into the third period and got the result they wanted as Alexander Semin scored his second goal of the season at 3:54, tucking a rebound high and under the crossbar to cut the Chicago lead down to one goal.
After Murphy made a short backhand pass from the blue line to Tuomo Ruutu, the Finnish winger found Eric Staal open on the other side of the ice and set him up with a pass that the Hurricanes captain used to tee up a one-timer that he directed towards Crawford.
The Blackhawks netminder made the stop, but offered up a big rebound that Semin easily put away over him.
Into the latter half of the period, both teams traded possessions and kept each goalie busy in his respective end of the ice.
Persistent forechecking paid off again for Carolina as the line of Jeff Skinner, Riley Nash and Radek Dvorak swarmed around Crawford’s crease and worked the puck low to set up the Hurricanes’ tying goal.
As the puck eventually made it up to the point where Hainsey gathered it along the boards, the veteran defenseman let loose a blast that found nothing in its path and tied the score 2-2 with 7:27 to play.
Hainsey’s unassisted goal was his first of the season and as a Hurricane, and one that reinvigorated the energy of the 16,263 spectators in attendance.
Three minutes later, Michal Rozsival was called for slashing Skinner and Carolina had its third power play of the game and the chance to take its first lead.
However, Carolina couldn’t capitalize on the chance and both teams skated to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation and headed into sudden death overtime.
The Hurricanes had ample opportunities to score during the extra period and got another chance with the extra-man advantage to win the game and complete the comeback.
Even with the advantage, Carolina couldn’t score and both goaltenders continued to keep the puck out of the net and forced the game to be decided by a shootout.
As Ward denied attempts by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Crawford did the same against Nathan Gerbe and Alexander Semin.
It then came down to Sharp who made no mistake in deking Ward to score the winning goal by drawing the puck to his backhand and then to his forehand and stuffing it into the net.
Skinner came up as Carolina’s final shooter, but his attempt to keep the shootout going ended when his wrist shot nestled in-between Crawford’s pads and gave the Blackhawks the victory.
“You gotta’ take the positives,” Ward concluded.
“You gotta’ look at the positives. We showed a lot of character in the second intermission and rallied as a group. There was a belief that we could come back and try to win this game and we ended up getting it into overtime and just came up a shot short.”