RALEIGH, NC — The second period of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-2 home loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night may have been the team’s best of the season.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to propel Carolina to a victory. But it was evidence of this team’s potential explosiveness, and if it can figure out a way to play with more consistency, the Hurricanes’ ceiling is pretty high.
The Canes, who will remain in first place in the Southeast Division even with this defeat, entered having won four consecutive games, including a 6-2 victory over Florida last Saturday that saw them score three times in the opening period. They did that on 13 shots on goal, though.
Against the stingy Canadiens, who came into the affair first in the Northeast Division at 15-5-4 and with 34 points, Carolina’s second period resulted in goals by Jordan Staal and Drayson Bowman but on 21 shots on goal. For the period, the Canes outshot the Habs 21-5 and went into the second intermission tied at 2-2. It was total domination.
“That was a tough first period for us, but our guys responded,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “I thought that was probably our best period of the year in the second. We did everything we possibly could.”
The 21 shots on goal in the period tied a season-high, equaling a second-period mark against Buffalo on January 24. The period also included a penalty shot by Eric Staal, the team’s first of the season. And really, a dynamic period should come as no surprise to Canes fans.
Carolina entered Thursday’s game third in the NHL in shots on goal with 32.4 per game and put up 44 against Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who netted 42 saves. In addition, the Hurricanes had outscored their opponents 17-8 in the four-game winning streak coming in and were fifth in the NHL with 4.25 goals per contest.
But they can be better.
Newness and injuries have been somewhat of an issue, keeping the Canes from the cohesiveness we might soon see. The team is just one game shy of the mid-point of this abbreviated 48-game season, so there’s plenty of time for the offensive to get even stronger.
And if that second period against such a dynamic team such as the Canadiens is any indication, Hurricanes fans can expect even more fireworks moving forward, and that’s a good thing given the team’s goalie situation.
Regular starter Cam Ward is out for 6-8 weeks with a knee injury, leaving Dan Ellis and Justin Peters to mind the net. Peters was in goal for the second consecutive game Thursday after being called up from Charlotte on Monday. He notched a victory over Buffalo on Tuesday night, but allowed four goals on 28 Montreal shots on this night.
The Hurricanes can’t expect Ellis and Peters to perform as Ward would have, so the offense needs to amp it up even more. Improving the power play, which has fallen to 28th in the NHL at 13.6 percent, will certainly help. But the reality is this group has enough to make up for poor numbers when holding personnel advantages. That means no more slow starts like what put them in a hole against the Habs.
“We obviously had a flat start in the first,” forward Jordan Staal said. “All of us weren’t happy with the way we came out, we really wanted a good second. Everyone in the room got going and we were playing well.”
Carolina hosts New Jersey on Saturday before key back-to-back games at home and away with division rival Washington next Tuesday and Thursday. There’s nothing wrong with winning high-scoring games as long as you win. And that may be how the Hurricanes have to take care of business for a while.