It was the kind of game the Carolina Hurricanes could still be discussing in February or March, especially if they’re just a few points out of playoff position.
The Canes had a 3-2 lead in the third period Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, with only five minutes left in regulation. Seal the win and it would give them a 5-4-1 record for October, more than acceptable given the schedule.
Then, the way it unfolded. The Ducks tying the score to force overtime. The Canes’ Sebastian Aho and Victor Rask getting breakaways in overtime, only to be stopped by Ducks goalie Ryan Miller. The Ducks then winning in a shootout 4-3.
Points are precious, and just as valuable in October as in March or April. Teams that make the playoffs make the most of their chances during the season, find a way to collect those points. The Canes (4-4-2) still are a team trying to learn how to finish off close games, maximize their chances.
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After the game, Canes coach Bill Peters talked about his team’s nine shots on goal in the overtime and asked, rhetorically, “Would you change anything in overtime?”
Easy answer: have someone make a shot.
Another answer: play Jeff Skinner. He’s the team’s only true goal scorer, has seven this season and got the Canes’ first goal Sunday, a power-play score with 6.6 seconds left in what had been horrible first period for Carolina.
Skinner did not see the ice in the overtime. Aho, Rask, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen were the Canes forwards used in the three-on-three period, but no Skinner.
Nor was Skinner used in the shootout as Peters went with Justin Williams, Jaccob Slavin and Aho and did not get a decent shot from any of three against Miller. Corey Perry had the only shootout goal, beating Canes goalie Scott Darling, to win it.
The Aho selection was puzzling, given the second-year player has not scored this season and appears to be lacking confidence on his shot.
Asked if his team lacked a killer instinct, Peters replied, “No, I wouldn’t say that. I think when game is coming down to the final eight, nine, 10 minutes, three is enough to win. So we had enough to win tonight.”
Three goals, that is. Peters likes to say that’s the magic number in the NHL, that three goals usually are enough to get it done. It’s an analytics thing, apparently, and certainly a Peters staple.
But three didn’t get it done against the Ducks. Jakob Silfverberg’s goal with 4:48 left in regulation gave the Ducks their third goal and the Canes soon had another loss, albeit with a point.
“I think they took over the game completely in the third,” Staal said. “Overtime, we were all over them (and) I don’t know how many Grade-A chances that we just couldn’t bury.”
There were some good things. Skinner keeps on scoring. Aho did make a nice pass to Staal for a goal, Aho’s fifth assist of the season. Defenseman Justin Faulk got his first goal of the season on a big shot in the second period and had other chances.
Peters, not liking what he was seeing of the Faulk-Noah Hanifin defensive pairing in the first period, paired Faulk with rookie Haydn Fleury and Hanifin with Trevor van Riemsdyk and got sounder play.
But the Ducks (6-4-1), playing without captain Ryan Getzlaf after the first period, were the heavier, hungrier team. Getzlaf had a puck hit him in the face in the first period and did not return after the intermission break, but the Ducks, finishing up a back-to-back set after beating Tampa Bay on Saturday night, closed out a four-game road trip with another win.
“Yeah, we got to overtime, but there’s a lot more to the story than just looking and seeing an overtime loss,” Faulk said.
This night, a lot more to the story. And questions to be answered.