Hockey players use the term “puck luck,” and their definitions of it can vary.
But regardless of how puck luck is defined or interpreted, the Carolina Hurricanes had little of it Tuesday in a 3-2 road loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Canes also came up on the short end the last time they played the Washington Capitals, who return to PNC Arena for a New Year’s Eve game Thursday.
The Devils scored their first goal when Bobby Farnham, a fourth-line forward, got off a shot near the post that had the puck ride up the stick of Canes defenseman John-Michael Liles and past goalie Cam Ward. New Jersey’s second score came when Jon Merrill’s point shot glanced off the skate of forward Kyle Palmieri to Ward’s right.
With the score 2-2 in the third period, the Devils got the winner after David Schlemko, a defenseman who was on waivers twice last season and had 12 career goals, fumbled a pass, retrieved the puck near the left boards, turned and flippedit toward the net.
The puck hit Canes defenseman Justin Faulk in the back of the left leg, deflecting past Ward to the glove side with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left in regulation.
Schlemko’s fumbling allowed center Travis Zajac just enough time to get to the front of the net, drawing Faulk to him.
Asked Wednesday about puck luck, Canes coach Bill Peters quickly replied, “Well, you saw a little bit of it (Tuesday) night. You create your own puck luck, though, by staying with it and doing good things. That’s why you always preach to throw pucks at the net and having bodies and traffic and the chance to go off something.”
The best teams usually have more wins regardless of those little bounces. You’ll find them in any game and sometimes it’s the timing of when you get those bounces. At the same time you’ve got to work for those.
Canes forward Jeff Skinner
Peters noted the game against the Caps on Dec. 21 at PNC Arena. A hard-fought game was decided when a puck bounced off Caps forward Jason Chimera in front of the net.
“That a redirection off a guy’s foot and in the net,” Peters said. “That’s why you’ve got to get pucks and bodies to the net.”
Some of the analytics people say puck luck tends to even out in the course of a season. The Canes, for much of the season, have been on the correct side of the Corsi and Fenwick equations in games that ended with losses.
The NHL this season has tracked shot attempts that hit the posts. The Canes, through Tuesday’s games, ranked fifth in the NHL with 23 – the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins were tied for the league lead with 25.
Canes forward Jeff Skinner has 14 goals this season and is among the team leaders in posts hit. Still, he’s not sure if puck luck is just that – good or bad luck – or more a combination of luck, skill, execution and basic hard play.
“The best teams usually have more wins regardless of those little bounces,” he said Wednesday. “You’ll find them in any game and sometimes it’s the timing of when you get those bounces. At the same time you’ve got to work for those.”
Palmieri’s goal came after pressure in the offensive zone by the Devils. Schlemko’s goal might not have happened had forward Lee Stempniak not made a good pass to Zajac along the right boards in the Devils’ defensive zone to begin the rush.
Schlemko called it a “lucky bounce;” Skinner, whose line was on the ice, called it a “tough bounce.”
“But we were up (2-1) going into the third period, and you’d like to close those games out,” Skinner said. “It was a tough one to give up, especially a tough time to have that kind of a bounce. At the same time, those bounces usually balance out.”
The Canes (15-17-5) can only hope that will happen this season. Their longest winning streak has been three games – in late October – and Peters recently said one reason was his team getting in its own way too often.
Goalies tend to have their own definition of puck luck, and the Canes’ Eddie Lack laughed Wednesday and said he hasn’t had enough of it this season.
“I do think in a long season it will even itself out,” said Lack, who will start against the Caps. “It can be frustrating, but system-wise or playing-wise there’s not much we can do about it. Just move on and focus on (the Caps).”