Power Play: Hurricanes can’t get past Miller, fall to Canucks

The Hurricanes had a nice start at home, which is what head coach Bill Peters wants, but ultimately couldn't get past Canucks goalie Ryan Miller and faded as the game went along.

RALEIGH, N.C. — After a nice 3-1-1 stretch for the Carolina Hurricanes (14-25-5 overall), they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Vancouver Canucks (14-25-5). The Hurricanes have just two more games left before the All-Star break, starting in Ottawa Saturday night, and they’ll want to get back on the ice quickly to forget about a pretty bad performance, particularly when put up against the way they’d been playing.

1. A good start wasted for the Hurricanes as they couldn’t sustain it, nor capitalize on chances when they got them

The Hurricanes were the more active team in the first, outshooting the Canucks 12-4 and getting some good looks. The problem was that they couldn’t turn them into anything, and often when they got close enough to get a good look, they either botched the chance or couldn’t get it past a red-hot Ryan Miller in goal for the Canucks.

"I don’t think we had a bad start. We were on the attack. But we’ve got to fight harder to find that first (goal)," the captain, Eric Staal, said.

"It was tough to generate anything through the neutral zone and anything in the offensive zone. I just don’t think we battled enough or worked enough to be able to create offensively."

His head coach Bill Peters agreed with that sentiment.

"I didn’t think we stayed with it well enough and weren’t quite hungry enough in the hard areas of the game," Peters said. "I didn’t think we competed as hard as we needed to be to be successful."

But one chance that would’ve at least made things a bit more interesting — or could have — came after the Canucks went up 1-0 early in the second.

Riley Nash had a chance at an empty-net goal, but just couldn’t quite find the net.

"I don’t know what happened there. The puck was along the line and I just got a stick on it to get it over. I tried to just settle it as much as possible and just kind of whacked it in the general direction. I just missed it. It’s a tough one, because we’re down 1-0 and that evens the game up," Nash said.

Peters scoffed at the notion that the Nash goal somehow changed momentum.

"We made too many mistakes. We turned the puck over. We turned it over …" Peters trailed off, looking for a number, or maybe thinking about all of the turnovers (of which there were 17), "… too many times. Way too many times."

Obviously, the playoffs are out of the picture for this team. But with a mostly healthy roster, they need for everyone to give the kind of effort they’re capable of giving more consistently if they want to evaluate what they need going forward and who they should keep or not heading into next season.

"I think it’s important for us tomorrow to show a little fight, a little response, and be ready to play in Ottawa," Staal said. "Tonight, it was tough sledding, but we’ve got to find a way in those ugly games and those tight checking games. You’ve got to find a way to elevate and make some plays, and we didn’t do a good enough job tonight."

2. Yet again, the Hurricanes struggled on the power play but continued their success on the penalty kill

The Hurricanes killed off both penalties they faced in the game, establishing a new franchise record by not allowing a power play goal in 10 straight games now. The Hurricanes entered the game fourth in NHL in penalty-killing percentage (86.8 percent); they haven’t finished in the top 10 in the NHL in that category since the 2006-07 season.

So yes, the PK is good. And at times, the power play has looked good, showing flashes of what it could be.

The Hurricanes had three power plays and attempted a total of four shots, barely even seeming to generate much of anything resembling a threat.

"They’re aggressive. I think we needed to do a better job with some outs. We had a few looks that you want to take another shot at, but they were aggressive," Staal said. "They were in our face. First one, we were a little hesitant with some plays and just need to be a little crisper, along with a lot of things."

3. Cam Ward was pulled from goal after what was, for him, a rare off night

Ward, all things considered, has been downright spectacular for the Hurricanes all season long, responsible for 11 of the team’s wins and having a renaissance season.

But he just never looked quite right against the Canucks. He wasn’t put in great positions, but he just still didn’t seem quite right.

And as a result, Ward was pulled entering the third with the Hurricanes down 3-0 in favor of backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who was slated to start tomorrow night’s game in Ottawa.

"If there’s a chance to come back, we need some saves. We knew (Khudobin) was going tomorrow, so it gives him a little bit of extra work. He’ll feel good going into the game," Peters said. "(Ward) was fighting it a little bit, so we got him out of there. I thought (Khudobin) came in, did a good job but we didn’t have an answer offensively."

Ward still seems like he’s indisputably the Hurricanes’ guy — but Khudobin has made a bit of a push in the last week or so, and Ward’s going to have to fight that off. Staal, for one, defended the team’s starter.

"I don’t know how it is for a goaltender but I think it can be tough nights when you’re sitting back there and you don’t have a lot of work and then when you get two breaks like that coming in on you, for me, I think that’d be tough plays," Staal said. "(Ward) has responded and he’s been solid for us all year, so we’re not worried about that."

Tim Gleason — The Hurricanes veteran defenseman was part of the penalty kill, and and he had two blocked shots in his 25 shifts, adding a team-high four hits as well.

Jay McClement — He was tied for the team lead in PK minutes played, and he also had a hit, a takeaway an two blocked shots, not to mention winning 5-of-10 faceoffs.

Ryan Miller — The Canucks goalie was spectacular, and he deserves the praise that was thrown his way. Even early on when the Hurricanes were generating chances, he was making ridiculous saves.