RALEIGH, N.C. — The scheduling gods can be cruel in the NHL, and they did the Carolina Hurricanes (2-1-2) no favors on Thursday and Friday.
The Hurricanes got a hard-fought win at Washington on Thursday, only to get back to Raleigh early Friday morning, get some sleep and then face a physical Los Angeles Kings squad (3-2).
The game was played at the pace the Kings would prefer — a grinding one. They doled out 36 hits, double that of the Hurricanes. And one punishing early check sent rookie Elias Lindholm out with an upper-body injury, leaving the ‘Canes more shorthanded than usual.
But Carolina still fought through it, coming out with a hard-earned point in a 2-1 shootout loss.
“I think it’s a testament to the depth. We’re able to roll four lines … on a consistent basis,” said Jeff Skinner, who had the Hurricanes’ only goal.
“When you’re able to do that and get guys in different situations and spread out the minutes a little bit — not just the minutes, but tough minutes — and stuff like that, it helps.
“It’s a good show of mental toughness there coming down to the end. Everyone’s tired at that point and it’s a good job to sort of grind it out.”
The Hurricanes had killed penalties on the night pretty well, but weren’t having the same kind of luck on the power play. They had a power play at the 7:16 mark of the third period, with the game still knotted at zero, and the Kings’ Dwight King still managed to take a Justin Faulk giveaway and score the first goal at the 6:34 mark, while shorthanded.
But just 40 seconds later, Skinner was able to sneak a puck past L.A.’s Jonathan Quick. No easy task, as the Kings’ excellent goalie made sure just one of Carolina’s 28 shots got by him.
“Great job by Andre (Sekera) there getting a puck to the net, and I just sort of tried to whack at it,” Skinner said of his first goal this year. “Luckily, I hit it, it was bouncing and I think it just sort of popped over (Quick’s) pad.
“It’s been tough the last few games. Haven’t been able to create much on a (power play) but then you look at that one, it’s sort of an ugly goal there and that’s sometimes how it goes. So it was a good one.”
Overtime saw more adversity for the ‘Canes, who were forced face a 4-on-3 Kings advantage for the final 2:22 of overtime after a Jay Harrison hooking penalty. They were able to withstand that, somehow.
And then it went to a shootout, where somehow one of the teams was going to have to score on two goalies that had done a great job all night.
Quick got the win, but Hurricanes’ goalie Cam Ward had a pretty good game, too, facing 37 shots and allowing just one goal in regulation and overtime. In the shootout, it came down to which goalie had a little bit more luck on their side. And as it turns out, it was Quick.
The lone shootout goal scored was by L.A.’s Jeff Carter, and it snuck by Ward, who still doesn’t have a win this year but played very well. And as Skinner knows, sometimes the margin for error is that slim in a shootout situation.
Skinner went first, and Quick saved it. Alexander Semin went next for the Hurricanes, and he missed the net. Then Nathan Gerbe couldn’t get it past Quick after Carter’s goal, and that was that. A tough way to lose a game, for it to come down to that.
“Should’ve been a 1-1 tie … that would’ve been nice the old-fashioned way to battle it out, but that’s the way it is today,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “So we’ve got to find ways to beat these goalies and score in these shootouts and win them, and find ways to get those extra points.”
There are still plenty of positives to take away, though. The Hurricanes have six points, tied with Pittsburgh for the most in the Metropolitan Division. And they’ll take that at this point.
As Skinner pointed out, too, the team has really only played poorly in one game this year (at Pittsburgh). Right now, they have to be able to take points however they can get them. And they’ve earned those points, but they’ve come with disappointment — an overtime loss at home to Detroit and then this shootout loss. But they’ll take it.
“Obviously, you lose the first (game) in OT and this one in a shootout, you don’t want to get those results but I think you look at those games, there’s a lot of positives,” Skinner said. “The Pittsburgh game, we weren’t really happy with the way we played but the other four games, I think that we’ve been consistent in all three periods.
“That’s what we really want to focus on. We want to keep trying to be consistent in that and bring the same game every night and know that if we stick with it and play the right way, things will pay off for us.”