Devils' big third too much for Hurricanes

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 29, 2013 

— There wasn’t a lot to be said Friday in a somber Carolina Hurricanes locker room at PNC Arena.

The Canes had a sluggish first period against the New Jersey Devils. The third period was as disastrous for the Canes as it was decisive for the Devils.

The Devils scored four times in the third, surging to a 5-2 victory in the Metropolitan Division matchup. Among the four goals was the 692nd of Jaromir Jagr’s career, tying him for eighth on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.

The Hurricanes, after a 4-3 road win over the Devils on Wednesday, could have moved into third place in the division with another win. Instead, they were left to try and make sense and explain the third-period collapse.

“They executed better. They definitely had more jump in their game,” Canes defenseman Jay Harrison said. “We didn’t have enough fight-back in our game.”

After the Devils took a 1-0 first-period lead on defenseman Mark Fayne’s first goal of the season, the Canes tied the score early in second on Jeff Skinner’s top-shelf shot and took a 2-1 lead on Jordan Staal’s perfectly executed breakaway -- defenseman Justin Faulk making the stretch pass to spring Staal.

But maybe having the lead gave the Canes (10-11-5) a false sense of security. The Devils were quicker to the puck and stronger on it much of the game, limiting Carolina to a season-low 18 shots while pressuring Canes goalie Cam Ward.

And Ward needed help, too. Had defenseman Brett Bellemore not gone down to block a shot late in the second, with Ward out of position, the Devils would have tied it.

In the third, the Devils did. Forward Andrei Loktionov beat Ward, the puck trickling through Ward’s pads. Forward Adam Henrique then gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal after sustained pressure in the Canes zone resulted in a hooking penalty on center Riley Nash.

Henrique jumped on a loose puck in the slot to score about 12 minutes into the period. When Dainius Zubrus redirected a Jon Merrill shot past Ward, the Devils led 4-2 and had scored three times in a little more than five minutes.

“It’s disappointing,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “We played 50 minutes where we sitting there and had the lead. It’s a lesson. You can’t take a shift off and you can’t have passengers. We had some guys tonight who weren’t at their best and you’re not going to win hockey games when you don’t have all guys rolling,”

Goalie Cory Schneider, disgruntled about not playing and vocal about it, was in net for the Devils (10-11-5). Martin Brodeur started Wednesday, but Devils coach Peter DeBoer turned to Schneider on Friday.

Schneider’s biggest stop came early in the third. The Canes had a power play and Schneider denied Eric Staal, who had a seven-game point streak snapped, on a shot that would have pushed Carolina’s lead to 3-1.

“I don’t think they played any different style wise as in New Jersey,” Muller said of the Devils. “They came up with more loose pucks. They created more turnovers and prevented us from spending more time in their zone.”

The Canes played without defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had two assists in Wednesday’s game. Muller said Sekera has an upper-body injury and is “day to day.”

Jagr, still an offensive force at 41, finished with a goal and two assists for his first three-point game of the season. His goal, the Devils’ fifth, tied him with former Detroit Red Wings star Steve Yzerman on the career list.

“I liked our game from the drop of the puck tonight,” DeBoer said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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