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Special teams help Hurricanes edge Jets

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

RALEIGH, North Carolina – A rock-solid penalty kill has been a boon for the Carolina Hurricanes of late.

The ‘Canes entered the night having killed 46 of 53 penalties (86.8%) dating back to Jan. 1, making them one of the top teams in that department this year.

It was more of the same Tuesday as the host team killed all four Winnipeg Jets power plays, while their own struck twice in a 2-1 win at PNC Arena.

“We just weren’t moving quick enough,” Mathieu Perreault said. “They were quicker than us, they got their stick on every puck, we couldn’t win a battle. That’s usually what happens when you get outworked. You don’t get any looks, any chances. We had a little urgency in the third but it was too late. … That’s our fault. We need to come out harder.”

Blake Wheeler pulled the Jets within one at 6:52 of the third as Jacob Trouba delivered a missile from the far point, filtering it through traffic until it got a piece of him in front, pointing it down under the blocker of Eddie Lack.

But it wasn’t enough, their 13-7 shot advantage proving to be too little, too late, after mustering just eight shots in the first 40 minutes.

“We just worked a little harder,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said of the third period. “A lot of good things will happen once you start sweating more.”

The Hurricanes opened the scoring with the first of two power-play goals on the night, 10-and-a-half minutes into the first period. Taking the backdoor feed from Elias Lindholm, Jordan Staal then flicked the puck back into the blue paint, where it took a fortuitous hop off Ondrej Pavelec’s right heel, giving the Carolina pivot his 13th of the year.

Riley Nash put the Hurricanes up by two with a PPG midway through the second. Pavelec had the answer for Noah Hanifin’s 35-foot point blast, but he was unable to smother the rebound, as Nash came in from behind and shovelled it under the body of the sprawled netminder.

“We were just losing battles,” Drew Stafford said. “We had plenty of chances on the power play that we didn’t execute. The goal that Blake scored – that was somewhat of a power play setup. We got a shot, we went to the net, we just couldn’t execute that when we had the power play.

“The penalty killers aren’t just going to give it to you. You have to earn every opportunity that you get. It’s back to the drawing board, but it starts with our compete on pucks, our battles. We were losing battles tonight and that cost us.”

Perreault agreed, adding that he has “to start making plays” as one of the Jets’ figureheads on the power play.

“I’ve got to be better,” he said. “It’s on me, too. We had some power plays but we couldn’t generate anything on it. We’ve got to clean it up. We’ve got to be stronger on the power play. They were putting pressure on us and we weren’t battling hard enough.”

Pavelec was under siege for much of the middle frame as the Jets recorded just four shots of their own. His best of the night came with five to play in the period as he robbed Andrej Nestrasil with a beautiful diving effort, reaching back and getting his paddle on what should have been a sure goal.

Pavelec finished with 27 saves, including eight after one, when the Jets went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.

– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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