It’s been the same old song for the Carolina Hurricanes lately: they just can’t seem to score enough goals to win hockey games. The same problem reared it’s ugly head again Wednesday night as the Canes fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in a crucial game in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While the playoff race enters the final 10 games, the Hurricanes are mired in a 1-4-1 slump and they haven’t scored more than two goals in any of those games. Tuesday night, only the stellar goaltending of Cam Ward helped them eke out a vital 1-0 win over the Sabres.
Early on in this game, the Canes got a rare goal on the power play and seemed primed to replicate last night’s recipe for success. Chad LaRose screened Leafs goalie James Reimer and deflected a Brandon Sutter shot to give Carolina a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
The problem is that it’s unrealistic to expect Ward to pitch a shutout every night and tonight he did not. Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf evened the game at 1-1 on his power play goal with 58.9 seconds left in the first period. The shot was a blast from just inside the blue line. In addition to the hard shot, Ward had to contend with two Leafs forwards screening him in front of his net.
Eric Staal had a great chance to give Carolina a 2-1 lead on a shorthanded breakaway early in the second period but he couldn’t lift the puck over Reimer’s pads with Nikolia Kulemin draped on his back.
Phaneuf’s second power play goal of the game put the Leafs ahead to stay midway through the second stanza. Phil Kessel’s initial shot was topped by Ward but the rebound came way out to the right point and Phaneuf blasted the puck high over Ward’s glove and off the far post.
It took only 12 seconds for Toronto to add to their lead when Tyler Bozek slipped between Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen and tipped a Darryl Boyce pass past Ward to make it 3-1 Leafs.
The Canes put pressure on in the third period, outshooting the Leafs 15-4 but Reimer kept the frustrated Carolina attack off the board.
“We’re offensively frustrated,” Carolina Coach Paul Maurice admitted. “We’ve got a lot of pucks sitting around that crease, we’re just having a heck of a time banging them in, and that gets frustrating.”
The loss leaves the Hurricanes in 9th place in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind Buffalo and just two points ahead of 10th place Toronto. The Sabres have a game in hand.
The Canes return to action Friday night when they host the New York Islanders.
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.