Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- The Carolina Hurricanes saw their five-game point streak, tying a season-long stretch, come to an end on Saturday night as they fell 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils. The visitors, despite playing their way to a bruising 2-1 victory over Washington just a night prior, was the harder working team in this one, gaining a 2-1 lead in the second period and not looking back before adding an empty-net goal late. “I think a lot of guys did [have the compete level]. We just didn’t have everybody. It’s too bad,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “I don’t want to take it away from the group of guys that came in, did what they were supposed to do and played hard. But we didn’t have everyone on the same page tonight, and when you’re playing tight games like these with a playoff mentality, you’re not going to get the result.”
-- More Muller, on why the team had some passengers tonight: “I don’t know. There are no excuses. You win or you lose, and you get out what you put into it. We had some guys that really put everything into it and some guys didn’t, and at the end of the night, you fall short.”
-- Despite losing three players to injury in last night’s game and having some of their top players log 25-plus minutes, the Devils outworked the team that should have been the fresher of the two. “I don’t think we had our legs. They’re a team that, if you don’t skate, you’re not going to be able to create much,” Jeff Skinner said. “We’ve got to get pucks in deep and get to work in their end. We didn’t do enough of that. We had some moments where we got some offensive zone time and got some good chances, but we didn’t sustain it.”
-- Riley Nash’s thoughts: “We were playing our systems and getting pucks deep. But in this league, it’s a fine line between really giving it your all and doing whatever it takes to win,” he said. “They just let it all hang out there, especially after playing last night.”
-- More Muller, simply: “They played last night, and a lot of their top players played a lot of minutes. They came in here and outworked us. That can’t happen.”
-- Skinner was one of the notable bright spots for the Canes, as he notched his 31st goal of the season, tying his career season-high set in his rookie year. That season (2010-11), he tallied 31 in 82 games; he’s got that many in 67 games this season with still four games to play.
-- Despite how good the Canes’ power play has been of late (scoring at a 29 percent clip in the last nine games), it didn’t come through when needed most tonight. (Though, you could argue Skinner’s goal was essentially a power-play tally, as he scored just three seconds after Michael Ryder exited the box.) The Canes had man advantage opportunities late in the second period and about midway through the third period that they couldn’t cash in on – both when they were looking to erase the 2-1 deficit.
-- The save that made the difference was arguably Cory Schneider’s diving stop on Nash right before the horn blew to signal the end of the second period. The puck bounced off the end boards, Alexander Semin tied up the defender and Nash had the scoring chance, but Schneider was able to get across the crease to body away the puck. A tying goal late in the middle frame might have done wonders for the Canes heading into the final 20.
-- The Hurricanes have four games remaining in the 2013-14 regular season. They’ll be in action next on Tuesday in New York before returning home for Thursday’s home finale versus Washington. “There’s no question that we’re going to finish hard,” Jay Harrison said. “We’re going to go out with that high level of competing drive to be successful. We’re professional athletes. It’s what we do for a living, and we stake our reputations and our livelihoods on it, so I don’t think you’d expect anything less than our best.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Dainius Zubrus' two goals and Cory Schneider's 26 saves led the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Saturday night.
The Devils (34-28-16; 84 points) extended their season-best point streak to seven games (4-0-3) and pulled within one point of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Schneider had to be at his best during a Carolina power play midway through the third period. He stopped Jordan Staal in close before denying Alexander Semin on a point-blank shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle.
After playing the opening 15 minutes with few scoring chances, Zubrus put the Devils on the board with his 12th goal. New Jersey jumped on a turnover in the neutral zone and pushed the puck to Zubrus, who drove between the faceoff circles and beat Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin with a backhand shot between the pads. Michael Ryder and Mark Fayne earned the assists.
Each team had one power play in the first period, but neither put together any sustained pressure. The Hurricanes outshot the Devils 8-7 in the opening period.
Carolina tied the game at 4:50 of the second on Jeff Skinner's 31st goal. Skinner's shot appeared to hit the crossbar, allowing play to continue for several seconds, but video review showed that the shot shot went under the cross bar and hit the back bar.
New Jersey did find the pipe in regaining the lead at 6:34 of the second. Travis Zajac deflected defenseman Marek Zidlicky's wrist shot from the top of the circles off the left goal post and into the net for his 17th goal. Tuomo Ruutu found Zidlicky at the top of the circles to set up the play.
The goaltenders had to be sharp at the end of the second period. Khudobin stopped Zajac shorthanded and later made a strong save on Damien Brunner at the left post. In the final minutes, Schneider first stopped Nathan Gerbe on the doorstep before squaring up to Riley Nash's chance off the end boards.
Zubrus sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining.