Time running out on Hurricanes after 2-1 loss to Oilers

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 16, 2014 

Oilers Hurricanes Hockey

Carolina Hurricanes' Nathan Gerbe (14) loses his edge and the puck to Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall (4) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, March 16, 2014.


— When the Carolina Hurricanes’ season is over, which should be in a few weeks, they’ll have a lot of time to think about all of the hot goalies they faced.

Goalies who handed them regulation losses. Goalies who kept them from picking up points. Goalies such as Ben Scrivens of the Edmonton Oilers.

Scrivens had 29 saves Sunday as the Oilers handed the Hurricanes a 2-1 loss at PNC Arena, further narrowing the Canes’ slim chances of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Scrivens allowed a first-period goal to Jordan Staal on a funky play when the goalie tried to bat the puck out of the air and Staal whacked it in the net. But he shut the door from there as the Canes (29-30-9) followed Saturday’s 5-1 road loss to the Boston Bruins with the loss at home and now are nine points out of playoff position with 14 games remaining.

“We do a good job of making goalies look good,” Staal said. “There’s a lot of opportunities and we’ve got to get in front of him more and create better shots. We’re getting shots but not good chances.”

They’re also not scoring on the power play. That has been a season-long issue for the Canes and it flared up again Sunday.

The Oilers (24-36-9) were 29th on the road in the NHL on the power play, but they scored the winner with a man advantage as defenseman Justin Schultz ripped a shot past goalie Anton Khudobin almost nine minutes into the third period.

The Canes, 29th on the power play at home and 29th overall in the NHL, came up empty all three times.

“It’s frustrating,” Staal said. “There are times we play so well and do a lot of good things and play smart, and then at times it’s just not working.”

The Canes were pushed around Saturday by the physical Bruins. Sunday, they faced a young, quick team that did not play Saturday and was finishing a four-game road trip.

Carolina coach Kirk Muller said it was a matter of the Canes not finishing their offensive chances, noting, “The puck was on the right guy’s stick.”

Staal, who extended his point streak to six games, had seven shots on goal and forced Scrivens to make tough saves early, at the end of the second period and then early in the third. Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner each had four shots for the Canes, who had 30 shots on goal and another 20 blocked.

“It’s tough when you’re fighting like that and you lose 2-1 and a third-period goal you give up,” Canes defenseman Justin Faulk said.

The Canes played without forward Jiri Tlusty, sidelined by a lower-body injury. Forward Radek Dvorak left the game with an upper-body injury.

Matt Hendricks gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead in the first after the puck glanced off Canes defenseman Jay Harrison.

But Jordan Staal tied it on a rush into the zone when he took a pass in the slot from Eric Staal for a shot that hit the stick of the Oilers’ Sam Gagner and bounced up. Scrivens swatted at the puck, but Jordan Staal knocked it in the net for his 14th goal of the season.

The Schultz power-play goal came after Andrei Loktionov was called for high-sticking. Carolina had killed off the Oilers’ first three power plays, but Schultz used a screen by Ryan Smyth to beat Khudobin.

The Canes will play their next three games on the road, facing Columbus, Winnipeg and Chicago.

“You’ve got to battle every day,” Muller said. “You can’t sit there and look at the standings and the points and what-if this or whatever. … You’re all pros and you’re expected to be at your best every day, and that’s what we have to be.”

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

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