Judging from Bill Peters’ tone of voice in the Thursday postgame, the Carolina Hurricanes coach came off slightly irritated after a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canes’ five-game winning streak ended at the Bell Centre, and Peters clearly did not like certain aspects of it.
The Canes’ power play was stale, generating little.
There wasn’t enough jam in front of the Montreal net, in front of Habs goalie Carey Price.
The Canadiens were the more physical team, playing with more of an edge to their game.
In short, it was a game there to be won by the Canes (8-7-4), a game that seemed to beg for the Canes to squeeze out at least one point, but ended up a regulation loss – 60 minutes of work for naught.
“It can be better,” Peters said. “The power play can be better. We can be harder at the net – both nets, their net and our net. We needed a few more guys digging in at the blue paint in the offensive zone. It would have been a little more appealing to the coach.
“We had two power plays in the last 10 minutes of the game. That’s a great opportunity to get it squared up. We ended up with one shot. It’s not enough.”
There were good things. Elias Lindholm scored again, with a wicked laser of a shot. The Canes’ defensive-zone work was hard and honest and Justin Faulk had one of his best games.
Goalie Cam Ward, other than an early third-period lapse when he didn’t fully seal the post on a Max Pacioretty score, was good again. The penalty killers, ranked No. 1 in the NHL, did their job.
But, as with most close losses, a play here and there worked against the Canes:
▪ Price was caught out of net and misplayed the puck in the second period. The Canes’ Lee Stempniak cruised by an open net but couldn’t get enough stick on a centering pass for what would have been a 2-1 Canes lead.
▪ Brock McGinn didn’t show enough awareness just after the Canes killed off a Victor Rask penalty in the third. Rask bounded out of the penalty box and was alone at the Montreal blue line as McGinn reeled in a loose puck in the Carolina zone, but McGinn winged it down ice past Rask.
▪ On one of the Canes’ two power plays in the third, Jeff Skinner swiped the puck from the Habs’ Phillip Danault along the boards, only to have Danault turn and trip Skinner. It was an easy call but one not made, and a penalty would have given the Canes a minute of a 5-on-3 advantage.
Still, it’s hard to say if the Canes, even with a two-man advantage, would have beaten Price again. The Canes’ power play was run in slow motion, the passing methodical and predictable.
The Canes pulled Ward for a sixth attacker late in regulation and Rask got off a backhander on a rebound that could have beaten a lot of goaltenders. But not Price, the best in the league.
Peters has tinkered with the lines and may have to again. Skinner has eight goals for the season but has scored one even-strength goal in the past nine games and may be more effective back with Rask and Lindholm.
Some adjustments to the power-play units also may be in order, with some players showing a loss of confidence in making quick, sure plays and others getting little done.
The Canes finish a three-game trip Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, then complete the back-to-back with a home game Sunday against the Florida Panthers. The Sens (12-7-1) beat the Canes 2-1 in overtime on Nov. 1, and the Panthers have given the Canes problems the past few seasons.
“There’s some things we did well but some things we can improve on moving forward,” Peters said.
Carolina Hurricanes at Ottawa Senators
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa
TV/Radio: FSCR, WCMC-99.9 FM