It still might be a little early in the season for a team to have a must-win game. But with the Carolina Hurricanes trying to stay within reach of a playoff spot in a jumbled Metropolitan division, that is what Tuesday night’s game felt like for the team.
Going 0-3-2 in their last five, Carolina was desperate for the two-point win. However, that desperation was nowhere to be found in the first 40 minutes of the New Year’s Eve game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Lars Eller opened the scoring for Montreal 1:20 into the first, and Max Pacioretty netted the next two to ride a three-goal lead into the second intermission.
Carolina was not without their chances to keep the game close early. In the first two periods, they outshot Montreal 25 to 16 and were 0 for 8 on the power play.
Offensive woes have plagued this team all season. Coming into tonight’s game, the Hurricanes stood last in the division in total goals scored.
But with all of the chances put on Habs goalie Carey Price, it felt like if the Hurricanes could get the first one to go in the flood gates might open. When Montreal continued to keep the penalty box seats warm, that is what happened 1:38 into the third.
With defenseman Andrei Markov in the box for hooking and forward Brendan Gallagher serving time for the bench abusing the officials, Carolina winger Jeff Skinner scored on the 5 on 3 and again less than a minute later when he made a nice move in the left circle and beat Price stick side high. Eric Staal cleaned up a loose puck in front of the Montreal net to tie up the game in a span of less than three minutes.
Manny Malhotra put the Canes up for the first time at the 8:16 mark, but Montreal answered two minutes later when P.K. Subban blasted a shot from the blue line.
A boarding call and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on captain Eric Staal late in the third gave Montreal the man advantage for the remainder of regulation and into overtime. The double minor was killed, and Alexander Semin closed out the game with a snap shot past Price.