For Eric Staal, it’s not about the difference in skill and talent. Nor is it about the significant disparity in payroll.
Rather, for the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, the explanation for the New York Rangers’ dominance of his team came down to other on-ice factors.
“Most of the time when it’s close like that, it’s a bounce or it’s a breakdown or it’s a mistake that can cost you,” Staal said before the 3-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night in New York. Dating back to Feb. 22, 2011, the Hurricanes have lost 17 of 18 to the Rangers.
“Or vice versa. It can go the other way when you’re winning those close games and you have that one chance, you get it. A lot of the (games) against them, it’s been a breakdown or a mistake or just a bounce against that has cost us.”
On a night, one in which the Hurricanes mostly played well against a team that fancies itself a Stanley Cup contender, a mere 11-second sequence midway through the first period sent Carolina to its third loss in six games.
Jesper Fast opened the scoring at 9:21 with his third of the season, and Rick Nash added to the lead with his second of the season at 9:32.
Following Nash’s goal, which was precipitated by a turnover at the blue line and culminated with the New York winger deking Cam Ward out of position, Bill Peters called timeout.
Ward made 20 saves. HIs counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, made 33 saves to record his first shutout of the season, the 56th of his career, and his second in 21 games against Carolina
Neither team scored in the second period despite trading chances throughout.
But Ryan McDonagh’s point shot 13 seconds into the third sealed the Hurricanes’ ninth loss in 15 games this season.
The first of four games between the teams also marked Brett Pesce’s first NHL game at Madison Square Garden. Pesce, 20, grew up in suburban Tarrytown, N.Y., which is about a hour’s drive from New York City.
When he met with reporters after the morning skate, Peters was adamant in his belief he did not have to talk with Pesce about over-emphasizing the significance of the game.
“He’s a mature guy; he knows what’s going on,” Peters said of Pesce. The Hurricanes pranked the defenseman by allowing to take to the ice for warmups while they waited in the tunnel. “We’ve had talks with all of our young ‘D’ at different times. A lot of things are going to happen this year for these guys (that) are going to be firsts: First time playing at MSG, first time playing out in Western Canada, first NHL game, first NHL goal, first NHL point.”
Joakim Nordstrom also dressed for the Hurricanes, while Noah Hanifin, Andrej Nestrasil and Brad Malone were scratched.