Canes waiting for good break to come their way

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 5, 2013 

Capitals Hurricanes Hockey

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Dan Ellis (31) stretches out to block the shot of Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, March 14, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)


— Sometimes, a hockey season can pivot on one play, one call, one game.

It seemingly happened to the Carolina Hurricanes once this season – a turn for the worse. They’re just hoping there’s enough time left for it to turn back.

The Hurricanes (16-18-2) have lost 10 of their past 11 games. Their last loss was the worst, a 5-0 beating Thursday by the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena.

“We’re a little shaky right now. Our confidence is a little shaky,” forward Patrick Dwyer said Friday. “We’re a little shaky and one bounce the wrong way or something else and you see the frustration come out in guys. That’s when you start trying to do it yourself or try to beat guys one-one-one instead of getting the puck deep.

“Just little things like that are part of the frustration. Once we can get over that and get a bounce and win a game we deserve to win, it will all fall into place.”

The Canes’ frustration stems from inconsistent play on special teams, a lack of secondary scoring, lapses in concentration and coverage in the defensive end and injuries to key players such as goalie Cam Ward and defensemen Justin Faulk and Joni Pitkanen.

Yes, there have been bad breaks. There also have been some costly penalties.

The Canes’ downhill slide began in the March 14 game against the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena. Carolina blanked the Capitals 4-0 in Washington two days before and the Canes had a 2-1 lead late in the second period.

At the time, the Canes were 15-9-1, having won two straight and six of seven. They also were 11-0-0 when leading after the second period.

But in the final moments of the second period, Carolina captain Eric Staal was penalized for high-sticking Capitals defenseman Tom Poti in the Washington zone.

“That was just a bad break,” Staal said this week. “We were all over them, in their end for about a minute. He had the puck and I went to get his stick with mine. I had one hand on it, it hit the stick and popped up and he gave it the head back. It was just bad luck, really.”

Washington began the third period on the power play and Alexander Ovechkin, who scored one goal in the previous eight games, drilled a shot for a 2-2 tie. The Capitals, who had trailed 2-0 in the first period, won the game 3-2.

The fuse was lit. Ovechkin hasn’t stopped scoring, piling up 10 goals in his past 11 games. Washington has been winning. It beat the Canes 5-3 Tuesday – Ovechkin had two goals and an assist – and surged into first place in the NHL’s Southeast Division.

The loss to Washington began the Canes’ skid. Nine of the 10 losses have come in regulation, preventing Carolina from picking up points.

“That’s the way it goes so far, but we have to stay with it,” Staal said. “It’s going to turn.”

That’s been the Canes’ mantra in recent days. But when? How?

Carolina faces the New York Rangers on Saturday at PNC Arena, where the Canes have lost six straight, one shy of the franchise record for consecutive home-ice defeats. That’s followed by a road game Monday against the Boston Bruins, then the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday at PNC Arena.

“If we can play a solid 60 minutes I think we’ll be successful,” defenseman Tim Gleason said Friday. “That’s what it comes down to – a team effort for a full 60. Whether we score first or let one in first, you’ve got to play 60 minutes of hockey. That’s what we have to focus on.”

Gleason noted he recently asked assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour, a former Canes captain, about handling the runs of losses. Brind’Amour, as is his wont, was succinct.

“He said, ‘Today is a new day,’” Gleason said. “That’s how you have to look at it. It’s a new day and you have to bring your effort and your hard work.

“We’re losing games. But when it comes to game day, it’s a new day and new game and a new situation. You forget what’s happened and move on.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945, Twitter: @ice_chip

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