Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- The Carolina Hurricanes failed to complete a season series sweep of the New York Islanders in what was a wild nine-goal affair at PNC Arena on Tuesday night. The Canes spotted the Isles four early goals before making it a one-goal game twice, ultimately falling 5-4. Jeff Skinner, Andrei Loktionov, Alexander Semin and Nathan Gerbe tallied for the Canes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome what was a four-goal deficit. “You can’t come out and spot a team four goals in the first period thinking you’re going to come back and win the hockey game,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’s a mystery why we come out so hesitant and afraid to play in the first period.”
-- The Canes have been prone to slow starts as of late, but tonight’s was a nightmare. Just over midway through the first period, the Canes trailed the Islanders 4-0 and were being outshot 12-2. Ward was pulled after surrendering three goals on nine shots, though he didn’t have much help in front of him. The Isles’ first two goals came via players winning battles in front of the net to bang home rebounds off scoring opportunities from a won faceoff draw. The third goal came as Colin McDonald, scoring his second of the game, took advantage of blown coverage to finish off a pass from Kevin Czuczman. Anton Khudobin then lost track of a rebound, and an untouched Matt Martin put it in the empty net. “It’s tough to say. I don’t know. I think if we had the answer we’d have probably fixed it by now. I don’t know,” Skinner said when asked about the team’s early-game struggles. “It’s hard to play the game when you’re constantly coming from behind and trying to bounce back after a bad start. We’ve got to come out better.”
-- Jay Harrison on the team’s first 10 minutes: “It’s unexplainable at this point. The feeling we had and effort we had – that’s not our game or our preparation. We clearly weren’t ready to go, and that’s unacceptable. The accountability within the room is coming to a point where this can’t be tolerated.”
-- As dismal as the team’s start was, they pushed back in the latter part of the first period, getting goals from Skinner on the power play and Loktionov on a breakaway. That cut the Islanders’ lead in half by the end of the first 20 minutes. “I thought we did a good job battling back after that,” Skinner said.
-- The second period was not as wild as the first, but it was still back-and-forth to some extent. Semin blasted home a one-timer on the power play to make it 4-3 early in the period. Then, at the 16:57 mark, Martin scored on a great centering feed from Ryan Strome to stretch New York’s lead to two goals again. That is, until 22 seconds later when Gerbe tapped in a puck along the near side of the net to make it a 5-4 game. “We just basically said that we have to get involved in this game,” Muller said. “We came out and had a great second. We did that on the road as well. Somewhere along the line, we’ve got to learn that we have to initiate hockey games rather than sit back and see what kind of games they’re going to be.”
-- More Harrison: “We’d be having a lot more success if we played the first period like we’ve been playing the second and third, which makes it more perplexing. Obviously it’s going to take some reflection within the room,” he said. “There’s no excuse or secret recipe.”
-- Muller on excuses: “We shouldn’t feel the pressure. We should enjoy it, enjoy the moment and enjoy the competition. I can’t say that that is an excuse, that we’re tight on sticks. We just won two out of three and are playing good hockey. We come home. I don’t see the pressure. I think we should be coming out hard and building, and we went the other direction.”
-- The team’s power play was effective in the first half of the game, scoring two goals and helping the Canes climb back into the game. But in the third period when the home team was searching for the equalizer, the man advantage struggled to establish a scoring chance, let alone sustained possession. “I think it goes right with our game. We’re inconsistent,” Muller said. “That’s what’s hurting us: individuals not playing consistently.”
-- Some notes: Riley Nash skated in his 100th career NHL game and won a career-high 13 faceoffs. … The four goals surrendered by the Canes in the first period equal the most the team has given up in any period this season. … Skinner leads the Canes in goals (27) and power-play goals (10).
-- Just 10 games remain on the regular-season schedule for the Canes in the 2013-14 season. They will travel to Florida next before returning home to host the Blue Jackets on Saturday. “We’re professional athletes and we want to go out there and continue to play every game like it’s our last,” Harrison said. “In this business, you’re only as good as your last game.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The New York Islanders raced to a four-goal lead in the first period and held on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 at PNC Arena on Tuesday night.
Forwards Colin McDonald and Matt Martin each scored twice, and Thomas Hickey and Ryan Strome added two assists apiece for the Islanders, now 13-4-1 in their past 18 road games. Anders Nilsson made 24 saves.
New York put the Hurricanes in a 4-0 hole in the first 7:15.
McDonald started the scoring with his seventh of the season at 3:39. Strome won a draw back to the point, where Hickey threaded a shot through traffic. McDonald found the loose puck in the crease and pushed it past Cam Ward for a 1-0 lead.
Cal Clutterbuck made it 2-0 at 5:26 on a similar play. Travis Hamonic's shot from the right point was redirected by Josh Bailey and buried in front by Clutterbuck for his 11th goal.
The Hurricanes' loose defensive play continued when Calvin de Haan circled the net and found McDonald alone on the back door for his second of the night at 6:12. That spelled the end of the night for Ward, who slammed his stick on the ice in frustration. He faced nine shots before giving way to Anton Khudobin.
The Islanders kept the offense coming. Kevin Czuczman fired a shot at Khudobin, who thought he had directed the shot to the corner. Instead, the rebound fell to Martin, who hit the net for his sixth of the season at 10:54. Czuczman's assist was the first point of his career in his third NHL game. He signed a professional contract March 11 after finishing his collegiate career at Lake Superior State University.
The Hurricanes, who were outshot 10-0 through the first nine-plus minutes, finally slowed the Islanders with a quick power-play strike. Jeff Skinner needed nine seconds of the man advantage to follow his shot from the slot with a backhander past Nilsson at 12:38 for his 27th of the season.
Andrei Loktionov cut the lead to 4-2 with a nice individual effort. He burst past Hamonic at the New York blue line before pulling Nilsson out of position and slipping in a forehand shot from a tight angle at 15:06.
Carolina made it a one-goal game early in the second when the Islanders took their second delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. Jordan Staal fed a back-door pass to Alexander Semin, who found room inside the post at 2:42.
Martin scored his second goal of the night at 16:57, taking a pass from Strome behind the net to give the Islanders a 5-3 lead. The breathing room didn't last for long; the Hurricanes answered 22 seconds later when Nathan Gerbe popped a bouncing puck over Nilsson's shoulder for his 16th goal, tying his career high.
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