A wild third period saw a combined 5 goals between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Winnipeg Jets last night. It seemed as though every time the Jets would score, the Canes had an answer until Blake Wheeler scored his second of the night for Winnipeg with a little under five minutes remaining in the game. The Jets would hold on to win by a 4-3 final, dealing the Hurricanes their second consecutive loss in regulation.
The injury bug hit the Canes’ locker room hard. A defense that’s already missing the likes of Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen were dealt another blow when Jamie McBain went down against Montreal. With the shortage on the blue line, the Canes were forced to call up 19 year old Ryan Murphy from the OHL for his NHL debut. Murphy had almost 24 minutes of ice time and finished with a -1 rating and 2 blocked shots. With so many out on the defensive side of the ice, the Canes needed a stellar performance from goaltender Cam Ward. Instead, they got a decent performance and a couple of soft goals. Ward finished with 19 saves and allowed 4 to get past him.
Wheeler opened the scoring up for Winnipeg just two minutes into the game. Towards the end of the period, Jiri Tlusty potted his 6th of the season off of a beautiful behind the back pass from Alex Semin to knot the score at one. After a scoreless and relatively uneventful second period, all hell broke loose.
Evander Kane scored on Ward’s short-side two minutes into the final frame. Jordan Staal answered back almost immediately with his third of the season to tie the game at 2 apiece. Jet’s captain and former Hurricane Andrew Ladd, playing in his 500th career NHL game, scored off of a botched faceoff with 6 to play. Then, just 40 seconds later, Tlusty added another to tie the game at 3. With things winding down and overtime looking inevitable, Wheeler got on a breakaway and sniped a shot past Ward’s left blade to give the Jets the lead and the win.
Special teams were a non-factor in this game, as both teams failed to score on extended two-man advantages, despite the fact that the teams are 29th and 30th in the league on the penalty kill.
With Tampa Bay’s loss against Boston last night, the Canes still hold a slim lead for the Southeast Division title. Winnipeg only sits 2 points outside of the coveted spot as well. As of right now, without the division lead, the Hurricanes, with 17 points, would be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. The Canes play tomorrow night against the Bolts in Raleigh for a matchup of the two teams who currently lead the division. The Canes must find a way to overcome injuries and play a solid game in front of the home crowd to put some distance between themselves and Tampa.