RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t hold off the New Jersey Devils for a second consecutive game and ended up losing 5-2 to their Metropolitan division foe at PNC Arena on Friday.
Playing in their second game in three days against one another, the two teams continued where they left off.
Holding New Jersey off long enough on Wednesday to preserve a 4-3 win during the third period, the difference in Friday’s matchup was that Carolina didn’t have a three-goal cushion to fall back on and do the same.
Carolina was led by Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal, who each scored their fourth goals of the season, as the Hurricanes led 2-1 after two periods of play while goaltender Cam Ward looked sharp in making many of his 26 saves look to be ones that would preserve a win.
However, the netminder and his teammates had nothing to fall back on as Jaromir Jagr (1g, 2a) helped the Devils score three unanswered goals in the final period of play to earn the win.
“It’s disappointing because we played 50 minutes tonight,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.
“We’re sittin’ there, we’ve got the lead; we knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle. It’s a lesson. You’ve gotta’ play 60 (minutes) in this game, you can’t take a shift off, and you can’t have passengers. We had some guys tonight that weren’t at their best and you’re not gonna’ win hockey games when you don’t have all the guys rowin’ every night.”
As happens in a series of back-and-forth games between two teams, when something good happens for one team, it doesn’t for the other.
On Wednesday it was Ward who denied New Jersey forward Adam Henrique from scoring a goal that would have brought New Jersey one goal closer to tying the game.
With the Devils scoring shortly afterwards, that save made the difference between a potential tie and a win.
On Friday, the ice tilted in Henrique’s and the Devils’ favor as a big pad save from Ward off a booming point shot from Eric Gelinas offered up too juicy a rebound for the young centerman to miss on as he scored the eventual game-winning goal with 7:58 remaining to play.
Albeit, it was a power play goal, but the disadvantage of having Riley Nash in the penalty box for hooking gave the Devils the chance they needed to take the lead back after Andrei Loktionov tied the game 2-2, just under four minutes earlier.
While being outshot 31-18 throughout the game, it seemed that New Jersey’s focus on playing a tighter defensive game eventually wore down the Hurricanes.
“They won more battles than we did,” Muller said.
“Overall, they were stronger on the puck. I don’t think they played any different style-wise, same way as in Jersey the other night. They came out with more loose pucks, they were stronger on the puck, created more turnovers, and prevented us from spending more time in their zone.”
With 12:37 left in the second period, the Hurricanes had a 4-on-3 power play opportunity that came up with no results.
“We’ve gotta’ execute on the power play,” Skinner said.
“We had a good look there. Staalsy made a good play to the net, the goalie (Cory Schneider) made a good stop there, then the rebound just squirted out wide – so yeah, that’s tough, but we gotta’ be able to execute more power plays than we are right now…We had a couple of good opportunities on the power play where we coulda’ put them away when we were up, but we didn’t get a goal.”
As the Hurricanes continued to scramble to help Ward keep the puck out of the net, it seemed that things would continue to work to their favor as defenseman Brett Bellemore made a big stop on Dainius Zubrus after Jagr slid the puck across the low slot and caught Ward out of position.
It was the young defenseman who threw himself down onto the ice to block the shot that maintained Carolina’s one-goal lead at the time, and had Ward tapping him with his stick as thanks for ending the play there.
As both teams came out for the third period, New Jersey didn’t let up in its forechecking and forced the Hurricanes and Ward to be moving in all directions until Loktionov’s goal opened the flood gate for the Devils’ final goals from Henrique, Zubrus and Jagr to finalize the score at 5-2.
After assisting on Zubrus’ goal, Jagr’s tally tied Steve Yzerman for eighth place overall (692 goals) on the National Hockey League’s (NHL) goal-scoring list and put a historic exclamation point on Carolina’s third period collapse that returned the two points they earned over the Devils a few days earlier back to them.
“When you’re going to defend and play the game not using the whole rink, you know, over time it’s goin’ to wear you down,” Muller concluded.
“I think over time it wore us down late in the game and cost us.”