Freaky Friday on a Sunday, as Hurricanes swap places with Devils in 8-4 loss
The goalies in this series are making the complete game as obsolete in hockey as pitch counts have in baseball. Akira Schmid couldn’t survive either of the first two games in Raleigh. Rod Brind’Amour didn’t even think about yanking Frederik Andersen at the first intermission Sunday, only to pull the trigger 53 seconds into the second with the Carolina Hurricanes down four goals.
That wasn’t the only reversal of roles between the Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils in Game 3. The Devils jumped out to the early lead at home. The Devils’ stars finally came to play, with Nico Hischier and Timo Meier scoring their first goals of the postseason and Jack Hughes posting a four-point, sort-of Gordie Howe hat trick. The Devils got a key shorthanded goal (although the Hurricanes scored three of their own). The Devils were the more physical team. The Devils were the lopsided winner, 8-4.
“They played their game,” said Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei, who along with Brett Pesce was on the ice for five Devils goals. “They’re fast. That’s a fast team, and they opened up the ice a little bit and that’s to their advantage. That’s how they want to play and give them credit.”
This series didn’t just change locations, it swapped bodies. After scoring five and six against the Devils, the Hurricanes gave up eight Sunday. And they now face some of the same questions the Devils faced coming home: Who’s their best option in goal now? What do they have to do to get their power play going? What’s wrong with us?
“They came and they took it to us and that’s what happened,” Brind’Amour said. “We were horrible, and that’s probably putting it mildly, but because of what they were doing. They were the better team. No doubt.”
Of course, one of the Hurricanes’ lingering questions is very different: Can they bounce back in Game 4 and put a stranglehold on the series the same way Hughes put Sebastian Aho in a headlock and threw him to the ice?
That option remains open, who will look at their play after it got to 3-0 on Sunday and feel like they had enough chances to close that gap. That’s why Brind’Amour and Jordan Staal were so furious with the interference call on Jaccob Slavin going after a loose puck with the Hurricanes down two men, even though the score was 7-4 at that point.
Not only was it an odd call — “That’s how you teach it,” Brind’Amour said — but it didn’t feel like the Hurricanes were totally out of it at that point. Stranger things have happened in this building.
“If we get a goal there, especially short-handed, we can get some momentum,” Staal said. “Obviously, there was a lot of work to be done, but we felt like we still had a chance.”
At 8-4, however, they most certainly did not.
The eight goals allowed, overall performance aside, are a big reason why their options in net are less clear. Andersen, starting his fourth straight game for the first time all season, might have been able to do more to stop the first two goals – a lost puck battle behind the net and a Hughes snipe – but he was victimized on the third.
Michael McLeod blew past Jarvis short-handed, and whether he meant to or not, slipped the puck between Andersen’s wide-open wickets. It’s not Brind’Amour’s style to make a goalie change there, but the total defensive breakdown that led to the fourth goal forced his hand. Kochetkov had a couple good saves but there was absolutely nothing about his relief appearance that screamed Game 4 starter.
And with Antti Raanta missing his second straight game due to illness – he did make the trip with the team – Monday’s practice will have a lot to say about whether he’s even going to be available Tuesday night. In one brutal eight-goal afternoon, the Hurricanes went from having no wrong answer in goal to having only questions.
Despite the score, there will be some areas where the Hurricanes will have momentum going into Game 4. The record-tying three short-handed goals in a playoff loss – including two on the same third-period power play – and Martin Necas hit the post early when things were scoreless, the Hurricanes’ best opportunity to get off to a different start, before everything went south.
And Stefan Noesen stepped in and pummeled Erik Haula after Haula took a run at Jarvis, the rare postseason fight. Defending Jarvis? Sending a message? A little of both?
“It kind of speaks for itself,” Noesen said. “It is what it is. We’d been going at it all night, and it felt like a good time.”
There wasn’t much else the Hurricanes could do at that point. The Devils stole their method, their mojo and their momentum. But these things tend to happen in the first home game of a series for each team. The trick is not letting it happen twice.
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