While outplayed much of the night, the Carolina Hurricanes were just minutes away Saturday from another satisfying victory at PNC Arena.
But the New York Rangers, who always seem to be able to find a way to beat the Canes, did it again.
Kevin Klein’s goal with two minutes, 23 seconds left in regulation tied the score, and the Rangers went on to a 3-2 shootout victory.
Mats Zuccarello had the only shootout goal, ripping a shot past Canes goalie Cam Ward, who played so well for so long Saturday. When the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist denied Chris Terry on the Canes’ final shootout shot, it was over.
Ward sparkled again in net, and Terry and Jeff Skinner scored goals for Carolina (9-19-4). But Canes coach Bill Peters liked little else except for some of his team’s four-on-four play in overtime.
“I don’t know if we ever got going at all, period,” Peters said. “Through the first three periods I thought they skated us. They were coming. We didn’t have the puck. I didn’t think we were very dangerous. We didn’t hang on to it very much, we didn’t make any plays.
“We were just hanging on. That’s not the way we want to play.”
The Canes ended a six-game losing streak Thursday with attacking play, topping the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. Then in came the Rangers, who had won their past four games and had dominated the Hurricanes in recent years, taking 12 of the past 13 games before Saturday.
In the shootout, Skinner and then Nathan Gerbe were denied for the Canes. Zuccarello, up first for the Rangers, beat Ward but Ward turned back Derek Stepan’s attempt.
“It’s tough losing in a shootout but ‘Wardo’ played a great game,” said Skinner, who beat Lundqvist with a wicked backhander in the third period to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. “He’s been huge all year for us, making big stops.
“Early on (Saturday) we didn’t get off to the start we wanted to and we left him out to dry a couple of times there. He kept us in it.”
Ward had 24 saves in the first two periods before the Rangers (16-10-4) broke through in the third on a power play. J.T. Miller took a perfect lead pass from Zuccarello, split the Canes’ penalty killers and got the puck past Ward.
The Rangers, who had a 34-20 shooting edge, appeared to tie the score 2-2 with less than eight minutes left in regulation on a shot by Matt Hunwick. But Ward was without his mask, which came loose, and the goal disallowed.
Klein’s goal, his seventh of the season, did count. The defenseman unloaded a shot from the point that Ward couldn’t track.
In the overtime, Skinner got off a good shot and defenseman Justin Faulk a pair of shots that Lundqvist stopped. But the Canes got nothing out of their four power plays in regulation, managing two shots against the Rangers’ pressing penalty killers.
“It was tough getting into the (offensive) zone,” Skinner said.
Terry’s goal came off a well-executed, two-on-one rush in the first period, Terry taking the pass from Gerbe. Skinner scored 26 seconds after Miller’s power-play goal, going one-on-one with defenseman Ryan McDonagh to get off the shot.
But the Rangers, who beat the Canes 2-1 in shootout in New York in October, did it again.
“When you have a lead late in the third period and they score you can’t help but feel you let one slip away,” Ward said. “We just seemed to be a step behind tonight.”
The two teams go at it again Sunday in New York’s Madison Square Garden to finish up the home-and-home back-to-back. Peters wasn’t sure if Ward again would be the starter.
“He might be a little fatigued,” Peters said.