RALEIGH – In a battle for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3. Wojtek Wolski scored the lone tally in the shootout, firing a wrist shot over Cam Ward’s left shoulder to give his team the extra point.
The Rangers now hold a three point lead over the Hurricanes in the standings, as the two clubs occupy the seventh and eighth seeds in the East, respectively.
The Hurricanes’ poor defensive play will go down as the determining factor in tonight’s loss. A team that is below-average in their own end, Carolina has exhibited several disturbing trends throughout the course of the season that were on display tonight. Allowing a high number of shots has been one of Carolina’s major weaknesses this year, and tonight was no exception.
The ‘Canes surrendered 46 shots to the Rangers, a team that is only 20th in the league in shots per game (29.6). Many of these shots came on second chance opportunities due to Carolina’s inability to clear the zone and control the puck in their own end.
While the ‘Canes defensemen scrambled to create breakouts and turnovers, the Rangers consistently maintained puck possession, won battles along the boards, and dictated the overall pace of the game. This was especially evident on New York’s game-tying goal late in the third period. Wolski controlled the puck, comfortably skated around Tuomo Ruutu, and was given an unacceptable amount of time and space, allowing the New York forward to score.
Another negative trend for the Hurricanes this year has been their inability to mount a successful comeback. Despite being 19-0 when leading after two periods, Carolina has only won two games this season when trailing after 40 minutes of play. Along the same lines, the ‘Canes have an anemic .243 win percentage when they concede the first goal of the game. Brandon Prust lit the lamp for New York 2:02 into the first period tonight to open up the scoring.
Despite the loss, the Hurricanes remained positive in the locker room.
“We lost a game at home in overtime, and we’ll take the good out of it and move on to the next game,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “We’re not going to beat these guys up after every loss. This time of year is all about conserving all of your positiveness and confidence and keeping it even when you don’t get the result you want.”
Jay Harrison, who scored his second goal of the year in the first period, liked what he saw from his team.
“We battled hard, and it was a real playoff-style game for us,” said the 28-year-old defenseman. “We’ve got some real positives to take out of it.”
The Hurricanes will continue their home-stand on Friday when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Raleigh.