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The Carolina Hurricanes are facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, following a 1-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Now at a 3-0 series deficit, the Hurricanes are on the verge of elimination.
Frederik Andersen was back in net for Carolina, replacing Antti Raanta, while Rod Brind’Amour also opted to shuffle around the forward group, keeping only Sebastian Aho's line intact.
The Hurricanes did have some good opportunities in the first period, with Jesper Fast and Stefan Noesen both getting some pretty point-blank chances. Each team ended up with a power play opportunity though, with the Panthers getting some great chances on their opportunity late in the period, but couldn’t convert.
Notably, Aleksander Barkov also left the game in the first period following what seemed like a harmless hit from Jack Drury. He didn’t return to the game, and his status remains somewhat unclear.
Carolina then really started to generate momentum through the early stretch of the second frame, outshooting Florida 8-2 up to the halfway point of the period, but Bobrovsky continued to shut down any chances the Hurricanes had (and had help from a post on a Brady Skjei shot). After Skjei took a slashing penalty though, the Panthers converted on the ensuing power play, with Sam Reinhart beating Andersen in-close. The penalties kept coming for Carolina right afterwards (including a questionable slashing call on Jordan Martinook). They managed to kill them off though, and it remained 1-0 through 40 minutes.
The Hurricanes didn’t generate as many quality chances in the third period, but still outshot Florida 11-2. As the clock ticked down though, it looked like Florida may have iced the game with an empty netter, but the whistle was sounded beforehand after Shayne Gostisbere took a high-stick from Sam Reinhart (even though there was no penalty called, and play was only blown down because Gostisbehere appeared to be hurt). However, Carolina couldn’t get much going afterwards in the final few minutes, and the Panthers hung on for the 1-0 win.
Once again, the Hurricanes outshot the Panthers by a sizeable margin, with the totals ending at 32-17. Just in the back 40 minutes alone, Carolina outshot Florida 25-7.
But the story remains the same, as yet again, the Hurricanes just failed to capitalize. It’s been a consistent all series long, with Carolina scoring just three goals on 135 shots.
On the one hand, you have to continue to give Bobrovsky credit. He’s basically been a brick wall for the Panthers and it’s not like this is the first series he’s taken over. Then factor in Carolina’s injuries up front, and they don't have a lot of firepower at their disposal.
But next game will be the team’s last if they can’t find an answer. They’ve lost the special teams battle in Games 2 and 3, and the team doesn’t have a goal from their top remaining forwards in Sebastian Aho or Martin Necas in the series. Especially with Aho though, he did have multiple Grade-A opportunities last night that were stopped.
I don’t think there’s a clear solution, given the Hurricanes are getting their chances, just can’t capitalize. You can’t blame the lineup changes, considering pretty much every line outshot their opponent at even strength. Defensively, Carolina has often been able to really shut down the Panthers’ offense too. Florida has just been opportunistic and Carolina hasn’t been.
The Hurricanes are a team who have faced tons of adversity, and you learn not to count them out. But you have to wonder whether the lack of star power up front is finally catching up to them.
It’s now do or die – Game 4 is set for Wednesday night.
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