Everyone agreed the Carolina Hurricanes had a tough early schedule this season.
Six straight games on the road to start, and eight of the first 10? That’s tough. That’s the right word.
“With a young team, that’s not an ideal situation for us,” Canes general manager Ron Francis said as the season began. “But it is what it is. And hopefully we get out there and get a few wins under our belt.”
That the Canes have gotten only a few, that they’re 2-4-3 after nine games, is not what they wanted. It has them last in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, with another road game Saturday against the Nashville Predators before the schedule becomes more favorable — six of seven games at home.
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The Canes were beaten 2-1 by the Ottawa Senators in a Tuesday road game at Canadian Tire Centre. The effort was there, Canes coach Bill Peters said, but not the goals. Not against Craig Anderson.
It has been an emotional time for Anderson, the veteran Sens goalie whose wife recently was diagnosed with cancer. Anderson, urged by his wife to keep playing while she undergoes treatment, was coming off back-to-back shutouts leading into Tuesday’s game.
Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin scored in the first minute of the game, but Anderson was rock-solid the rest of the way, making 32 saves.
“It was probably one of our better efforts,” Peters said. “I liked the effort, I liked the execution. The penalty kill was good. We could have executed a little better in some offensive situations but I liked the effort.”
The first period was the kind that drives analytics folks a bit batty. The Canes had nearly all the metrics in their favor, keeping the puck and outshooting the Sens 16-5, but Ottawa scored on one of those five shots for a 1-1 tie.
“We didn’t give them a lot of room,” Peters said. “We shot the puck, we stayed on it early and got off to a good start.”
The Sens made a push in the second, cranking up their physical play while putting more offensive pressure on Canes goalie Cam Ward, and the third period was a standoff.
“I didn’t think we were as good in transition in the second and then I thought the game settled down and it was pretty even from that point on,” Peters said.
The first three minutes of overtime were even, both teams getting off three shots. But the Sens’ Kyle Turris ended it at 3:09 with a good shot from the left circle, using Slavin as a screen.
No NHL team had more overtime or shootout losses last season than the Canes’ 16. Only the Canes and Toronto Maple Leafs have three OT losses this season.
In three-on-three overtimes, puck possession and shot selection are critical. The referees tend to put the whistles away in overtime, unless it’s an egregious penalty.
The Canes’ Elias Lindholm, without a goal in the first nine games, may have been hit on the glove by defenseman Mike Hoffman as Lindholm skated down the slot for an overtime shot, but there was no call.
Later, after the Canes’ Victor Rask won a draw in the Carolina zone, Slavin hard-rimmed a pass up the right boards to Lindholm near the Ottawa blue line. Lindholm couldn’t corral the puck, the Sens picked it up and Turris soon had the winner.
The Canes will hold practices Thursday and Friday before leaving for Nashville. Odds are that overtime play, among other things, will be addressed.