RALEIGH — Patrick Dwyer says the Carolina Hurricanes could use some "greasy" goals. Jordan Staal prefers the term "dirty" and Jiri Tlusty "ugly."
Whatever the hockey jargon or terminology, the Canes badly need goals of any variety.
The Hurricanes, in Toronto on Thursday for a game against the Maple Leafs, built a 15-9-1 record in the first 25 games on the strength of consistently good five-on-five production. Even with the power play struggling, the Canes were scoring goals and winning.
No longer. They’ve managed just five even-strength goals in a confidence-killing six-game losing streak, being outscored 14-5 five-on-five and 20-7 overall.
"It’s not going in for us right now and it’s costing us games," Tlusty said.
Jordan Staal said it wasn’t a matter of opponents altering their defensive tactics against the Canes (15-14-2), who have tumbled to 10th place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. To be sure, opposing teams are doing all they can to muzzle the Canes’ top line of Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, but Jordan Staal said the offensive problems are more self-inflicted.
"It’s just been our play and our level," he said. "Teams are stepping up their level and we’re still a step behind. We’ve got to find a way to raise our level, five on five, in all areas of the ice.
"I think we’re slowing up because we’re not executing well enough. We’re not playing the hockey we can."
The Hurricanes’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday came at even-strength – barely. Tlusty took a pass from Riley Nash in front of the crease and beat Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec a second after a Canes power play expired.
Canes coach Kirk Muller, after a review of the game video and Carolina’s 39 shots against the Jets, said there were more than enough quality scoring chances. The same, he said, was true of some of the other losses in the six-game skid.
"We’re just not finishing," Muller said. "We’ve got to relax a bit. I think the intensity and the pressure of each (game) means more right now and it sort of looks like it has affected some of our production that way. We just have to bear down and capitalize on those opportunities the way we did earlier in the year."
In practice Wednesday, Muller emphasized players going to the front of the net, screening the goalie, looking for tips.
"When you’re struggling it’s easy to force stuff," Dwyer said. "We need to get back to the simple things: pucks to the net, crash the net, traffic and try to get some of those greasy goals and get a greasy win. Sometimes, you just need that one greasy win and you’re out of it."
The Jets’ third goal Tuesday could be considered "greasy" or "ugly." Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov crowded Canes goalie Justin Peters, the puck was knocked around in the air and ended up in the net for a 3-1 lead.
"Off the chest and in,” Jordan Staal said of the goal. “We haven’t had too many dirty goals around the net. Especially when you’ve got a team that’s gripping their sticks a lot ... it’s a matter of getting those dirty goals to get us on a roll again."
Jordan Staal has one goal in the past seven games. The same is true for Semin, Tlusty and winger Jeff Skinner, although Skinner has 16 shots on goal in the past two games.
The last goal by a Canes defenseman was Joe Corvo’s score at Washington on March 12 – coincidentally the Canes’ last victory.
Staal and defenseman Jamie McBain have scored own-goals the past two games, Staal against New Jersey and McBain against Winnipeg, but that’s another story.
"We do have some bad things happening right now," Muller said.
Muller made some line tweaks Wednesday, in part because of winger Chad LaRose being out with the flu. Tuomo Ruutu was on Jordan Staal’s line opposite Skinner. Drayson Bowman, a healthy scratch Tuesday, replaced Ruutu on Riley Nash’s line opposite Dwyer.
"We have to get back to working and getting to the net and good things will happen," Jordan Staal said. "Then hopefully we’ll start feeling better about ourselves.”
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