While Sebastian Aho made his return from a three game absence, not much went right for the Hurricanes on Tuesday night, as they fell to the Lightning, 3-0, to earn their third consecutive loss.
Brayden Point broke the scoreless tie with :54 seconds remaining in the first period, firing a rocket from the top of the point past Kochetkov on the power play. While this would end up being the game-winning goal, it would not be Point’s last point, as he recorded an assist on Alex Barré-Boulet’s deflection goal in the second period.
For good measure, Brandon Hagel found Nicholas Paul in the slot in the third period, where he took the one-timer over Kochetkov’s left shoulder for a three goal lead.
Carolina created a plethora of scoring chances of their own, yet it seemed like there was no real threat to Tampa Bay’s lead. The Hurricanes outshot the Lightning 32 to 23 and certainly could have gotten on the board, but Jonas Johansson was set on recording his first shutout of the season.
“We’re not playing up to our abilities,” said Rod Brind’Amour on the Bally Sports post-game show. “We have to find that team game that we have done so well over the years. We need to find it because it certainly hasn’t been there this year.”
Looking at the box score, not much stands out as to easily identify why Carolina lost, but it simply came down to execution, as the Hurricanes looked out of sync.
Whether it be poor passes that made the difference in a quality shot attempt or a puck exiting the zone or another bad defensive performance, the Lightning were without a doubt the better team on Tuesday.
Pyotr Kochetkov, who made his second consecutive start in net, showcased why he is the goaltender of the future for the Hurricanes. Sure, he allowed three scores, but one was on the man advantage and without his effort, Carolina would have had no chance to potentially mount a comeback.
A three-game losing streak and falling under .500 for the first time since Dec. 31, 2018 is absolutely going to raise some concern, but there is no reason to panic in Raleigh.
The defense needs to improve, especially Dmitry Orlov, who has struggled, and Tony DeAngelo, if he continues to see action once Brett Pesce returns.
That has been the most glaring difference, as Carolina has allowed the most goals in the NHL at 33, and has not been that dominant team in the defensive zone as they have been in years past.
Orlov, who has yet to find a consistent partner on the blue line, has had a slow start to the season. His -11 +/- is without a doubt the worst on the roster, as Tony DeAngelo’s -6 is the next closest.
The duo of DeAngelo and Orlov began the season on the third defensive pairing together, and while Orlov has been less than stellar, his place on the blue line has much more upside.
Excluding Andrei Svechnikov, who has yet to return from ACL surgery, Carolina has competed at full strength in just two of their first seven contests. And in those two contests, they are 2-0.
Sebastian Aho missed three games out west, Freddie Andersen has yet to see action after taking a puck to the mask against San Jose, and Brett Pesce has been absent in the last two contests.
There is plenty to be weary of regarding the Canes, but, it is just game seven of the season and they have won both games in which they have been at full strength.
The return of Andrei Svechnikov and Carolina getting healthy can instill some confidence and stability to the lineup.
Deploying a 12 forward, six defenseman lineup is ideal for Rod Brind’Amour and company, and that has to be what is used.
If Aho, Pesce, and Svechnikov cannot provide a spark or at least allows others to get comfortable, particularly on defense, then doubts and panic could be warranted.
The Hurricanes will look to return to the win column and get revenge on Thursday, as they host the Seattle Kraken in the first night of a back-to-back.