The Carolina Hurricanes started a stride behind and never caught up in a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario on Sunday.
In losing their third game in a row, the Hurricanes’ effort against Ottawa this time was much better than when the two teams first played each other a month ago in Raleigh.
However, the final result did not change as the Senators’ Jason Spezza was the difference-maker again as his two goals powered his team to its second victory over Carolina on the season.
Caught off guard
It took Spezza only 55 seconds to drive through the neutral zone past three Carolina defenders and to tuck a shot past goaltender Cam Ward to put the Senators ahead 1-0.
The goal came about as the result of a clean breakout that the Senators executed on passes from Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson that set Spezza through the Hurricanes’ forecheckers in the neutral zone and past the defense towards the net.
After that initial shock had worn off, Carolina played catch-up throughout the game as goals by Pat Dwyer, Eric Staal and Alexei Ponikarovsky were still not enough to do the job against Ottawa.
Energy without power
According to coach Paul Maurice, even with eight power play opportunities that could have made the difference in the game, he felt good about the team’s effort.
“We played a good game,” Maurice said.
“We didn’t get a handle on enough pucks around their net on the power play. We’re feeling pretty good about our power play but it was the difference in the game for us. The rest of our game I liked, to be honest with you. I thought we competed hard and handled the adversities of the game well.”
The lack of ability to finish on the power play became particularly significant in denying the Hurricanes an opportunity to earn a point late in the game when Ottawa’s Zach Smith was penalized for high sticking.
Trailing 4-3 with 1:44 to play in the third period, the Hurricanes did not get a handle on the puck to maintain control during their final extra-man advantage and allowed the Senators enough opportunities to clear the puck out of their zone to hold on for the win.
Carolina’s struggles in the offensive end continued all night as they fired 37 shots on Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson but could not put enough in the net to earn a tie or a victory.
Though the final team result ended in another loss, the Hurricanes had some individual points of achievement to note from the game.
Defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason both played in their 500th NHL games against Ottawa.
Pitkanen returned after missing eight games with a lower-body injury and finished with an assist while Gleason tallied an assist as well.
On the offensive end, captain Staal broke his seven-game goalless streak as he scored his fifth goal of the season at 6:46 of the third period.
Veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.
It was the first time that the well-compensated defenseman has yielded a spot for another defenseman in the lineup so far this season.
Maurice alluded to the fact that Kaberle’s game has not been at the level expected of him and by placing him as a healthy scratch it allowed for the team’s other defensemen to get some ice time.
“This is not a matter of sending a message,” Maurice said. “Tomas has some things in his game that we have to fix, and it’s not so much mental. It’s just the overall speed of his game and that may take longer than one day, but he’s got a lot of good hockey left in him.”
When talking with Kaberle recently, it seemed that he was still searching to find his pace and place in the Hurricanes system of play.
Hopefully by watching from the press box in Ottawa, Kaberle got a better appreciation for what is going right and wrong with the Hurricanes’ defensive game and to know how to put the effort in to help the team win when he gets back into the lineup.
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