The Carolina Hurricanes took dead aim Monday at New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider.
The Canes had 40 shots that were on goal, meaning Schneider had to make a stop. There were another 21 attempts that missed the net, and the Devils blocked 33 shots.
That’s 94 total attempts to score a goal. The Canes managed one goal, just as they did in losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals in the previous two games.
“It’s frustrating,” Canes forward Jeff Skinner said after the 2-1 loss to the Devils. “We’ve got to bear down on our chances. We’ve got to find ways to get to tough areas and get some goals.
“I don’t think we worked hard enough to be rewarded. I think we had a fair amount of shots, but I don’t think we had enough drive or the ability to bear down in-tight.”
The Canes (8-16-3), last in the Eastern Conference with 19 points, managed seven goals in losing four of five games in the recent homestand, their longest until March. And it wasn’t as if they were mustering about 20-some shots a game.
The Canes outshot the Red Wings 35-22 on Sunday. But the Wings’ Tomas Tatar scored on both of his shots, and Pavel Datsyuk scored on one of two shots in the 3-1 win.
Skinner had a season-high 10 shots for the Canes and had good looks. But backup goalie Petr Mrazek of the Wings allowed just one goal, on a deflection by Jay McClement.
What has to change?
“Just guts,” Canes forward Nathan Gerbe said. “Getting (to) the net, taking the pain of the beatings and banging in pucks. It’s all about having the heart to do it.”
The Hurricanes’ biggest problem may be that they don’t have enough players who can finish around the net, and the ones who have proved they’re capable of scoring aren’t doing it enough.
Alexander Semin has been a nonfactor offensively, scoring his first goal Thursday against the Caps. Eric Staal doesn’t have a goal in the past eight games and Skinner one in eight games. Elias Lindholm, despite a spot on the top line with Staal, has one goal in the past 12 games.
The Canes are averaging 30 shots a game, 17th in the NHL, but are 29th in scoring at 2.18 goals a game. They’ve struggled at even strength, being outscored 57-40 and were 2-for-16 on the power play during the homestand.
Defenseman Justin Faulk, who now leads the Canes in scoring with 16 points, had the only goal Monday on a shot from the high slot when Jiri Tlusty was able to block Schneider’s vision. But there has not been enough of the “traffic” that coaches and players harp on all the time and too many outside shots.
“We’ve got to get in front of the net and be hungry for rebounds,” Lindholm said. “That’s the biggest key. We’ve got to make it hard for the goalie to see the pucks. We just need to keep going, keep shooting.”
The Canes did all the shooting in the third period Monday against New Jersey. The Devils did not have a shot on goal until the final four minutes as Carolina got off 17.
In the final minute of regulation, with a sixth attacker on the ice for Carolina, McClement had a good scoring chance from the side of the net. Schneider was forced to make a hustling stop on a Gerbe backhander from the slot and later on a shot by Andrej Sekera from the point.
Moments later, the Devils were congratulating Schneider while the Canes had another good effort by goalie Cam Ward go for naught.
“We’ve got to give our goalie a better chance,” Gerbe said. “Scoring one or two goals, that’s tough for him. He has to have a perfect game to win.”
Canes coach Bill Peters said some shuffling may be necessary. He said Staal might move to a wing and Lindholm to center.
Semin missed Monday’s game with lower-body and wrist soreness, and Peters said he was “day-to-day.” The Canes, who play the next three games on the road, did not practice Tuesday.
“Sometimes you just go through stretches, and this has been a long one,” Skinner said. “Getting some ugly goals would help. I don’t know if it’s executing or not being able to finish off the chances we’ve had. It’s obviously tough to score goals in the NHL, but you’ve got to find a way.
“It’s frustrating but it’s part of the game. When you’re going through adversity, mentally it’s a challenge but it’s something we have to battle through and get out of.”