RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t top the Minnesota Wild’s shootout performance in losing 3-2 at PNC Arena on Saturday.
In what was a relatively evenly-matched performance from both teams for 65 minutes of end-to-end play, it was the final round of one-on-one’s that ended it and denied the Hurricanes the opportunity to earn both points for the game.
With forward Jiri Tlusty and defenseman Ryan Murphy contributing to the Hurricanes offensive output, it was a successive troika of goals from the Wild’s shooters led by Mikko Koivu that handcuffed Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters and denied him from earning a third consecutive win with his 28-save performance.
“Tonight we had to be happy with the fact that we just played one of the top teams in the West that doesn’t give up any chances,” Muller said.
“We said that this was gonna’ be a test for us – the battle for three periods. It was a chess match – a pretty good tempo game. I thought we got great opportunities.”
Both teams posted goals within the first five minutes of play in the first period as Minnesota’s Jason Pominville took advantage of a breakaway opportunity on Peters at 3:33 to take a 1-0 lead.
Murphy tied the score 1-1 just over a minute later with a shot that beat Wild netminder Josh Harding, who ended up stopping 27 shots in earning the win.
Beginning the second period tied 1-1, forward Jiri Tlusty gave the Hurricanes the lead at 7:14 but the Wild managed to tie it on a goal from Justin Fontaine as both teams continued to have their chances at both ends of the ice.
Carolina struggled with its power play and went scoreless (0-3) with the extra skater, including a 4-on-3 man-advantage opportunity with 1:07 remaining in overtime that could have ended the game right there and then.
“We battled hard tonight,” Murphy said.
“We put (in) a full 60-minute game. He (Peters) helped us stay in tonight. He’s kept us in every game and we should have capitalized when it came down to it on the 4-on-3.”
The Hurricanes’ lack of effective puck control on that man-advantage opportunity ended the most opportune chance they had to win the game, and subsequently afforded Minnesota a chance to do so in the shootout.
“It’s almost like you can’t dwell on it a lot or it’s just going to get into the guys’ minds to the point where they’re gonna’ get thinkin’ so much and not let things go natural ,” Muller said of the team’s continued struggles on the power play.
“It’s a very thin line. We got some chances before and they’re not goin’ in, but it’s just an area that we just gotta’ keep workin’ on in practice. But they gotta’ use their instincts at times as well.”
While his teammates couldn’t put the puck in the net at the other end to earn him the win in overtime, Peters was on his own island during the shootout and couldn’t do it either as Koivu, along with Pominville and Zach Parise before him, all scored to clinch the final point.
“We need everyone pushing and pulling in the same direction all the time,” Peters said afterwards.
“We’ve proven the last few games here that when we do, we get results. Tonight’s game could’ve went either way there in the shootout, and unfortunately it wasn’t our way.”