The Hurricanes were hanging tough against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, playing them evenly and trailing just 2-1 after the first 40 minutes in Chicago. Then, the Hawks struck for three goals in a span of 4:32 early in the third period and cruised to a 5-2 victory.
The loss dropped Carolina back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the New York Rangers and three points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres who have three games in hand on the Canes. The top eight teams in each conference quality for the playoffs.
With his team playing games on back-to-back nights, Carolina Coach Paul Maurice started rookie Justin Peters in net, ending a streak of 24 consecutive starts by Cam Ward.
It didn’t take long for the Blackhawks to take advantage of Ward. Jonathan Toews forced Corey Stillman to cough up the puck in his own zone and skated in alone before beating Peters to the short side to give Chicago a 1-0 lead just 55 seconds into the game.
Eric Staal scored on a one-timer from between the circles at the 6:23 mark of the opening period to tie the game at 1-1. The Hurricanes captain was trailing a rush and took a nice pass from Stillman while speeding towards the goal. He beat Corey Crawford just inside the far post for his team leading 29th goal of the season.
Bryan Bickell gave Chicago the lead midway through the first when he put home the rebound of a Brent Seabrook shot from just outside the crease. Bickell took advantage of the fact that Canes defenseman Jamie McBain lost his stick during the scramble for the loose puck in front of his own net.
The Hawks started to break things open early in the third period when Ryan Johnson banked the puck into the net off the skates of Joni Pitkanen to make it 3-1 Chicago. Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane also scored to break the game open and give the Hawks a commanding 5-1 lead.
Jeff Skinner scored with 7:51 left in the game to pull Carolina to within three goals but that was as close as the Hurricanes would get.
Maurice was frustrated that his team let this game get away in the third period. “After the first 10 minutes of the first period, I thought we had enough chances in that second period to be even or better,” Maurice said. “But they were stronger in the third than we were. We would have needed a few more breaks to win this game here tonight.”
A big problem area for the Hurricanes tonight was faceoffs. Carolina won just 19-of-66 draws, a mere 28.8 percent. Giving a skilled team like the Blackhawks who like to play puck possession hockey that kind of advantage put the Canes one step behind for most of the game.
The Hurricanes don’t return to action until Wednesday, March 9 when they host the Atlanta Thrashers.
About the Author
Written by Brad Kurtzberg
Hockey writer for more than 10 years. Has been published on Fox Sports, MSG Network, Huffington Post and Inside Hockey. Wrote the book, "Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team" on the old California Golden Seals and is presently working on his second book.