Two dreadful offensive performances have the Montreal Canadiens questioning what’s wrong with their power play.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been wondering what’s wrong with theirs for weeks.
Carolina will hope for better luck kick-starting its stagnant offense on Tuesday when it hosts Montreal in a series that’s been dominated in recent years by the Hurricanes.
It’s been more than a month since Carolina (13-12-5) has consistently been able to get solid production from its offense. The Hurricanes have averaged 2.2 goals in their last 18 games, and they’ve gone 2-5-3 over their past 10 contests to fall eight points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington.
Carolina has scored more than three goals just once in its last 10 games, and even that ended up turning into a heartbreaking loss. The Hurricanes held a 5-1 lead after two periods Thursday in Philadelphia but lost 6-5 in a shootout, then reverted back to their offensive struggles Saturday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers.
With the score tied at two in the third period in New York, Carolina had a chance to take the lead with two full minutes of a two-man advantage. But the Hurricanes couldn’t convert, and mustered three total shots in a pair of 5-on-3 power plays in the game.
“We need to put one in there,” coach Paul Maurice said. “One or two chances are not what we’re looking for.”
Not scoring with a man advantage is becoming quite a trend with Carolina. The Hurricanes have scored four times in 52 power-play situations (7.7 percent) in their last 10 games, the worst percentage in the Eastern Conference over that span.
The second-worst mark in that stretch belongs to Montreal (16-8-5), which is 4-for-46 (8.7 percent) over its last 10 contests. The Canadiens haven’t scored more than one goal with the man advantage since Nov. 8, a string that included an 0-for-10 performance.
Montreal scored once in six tries on Thursday against lowly Tampa Bay, but could do nothing else offensively in a 3-1 loss. The Canadiens failed to convert on eight power-play chances against Washington two days later and lost 2-1, an effort that left coach Guy Carbonneau fuming.
“Our power play is non-existent because we get outworked by the opposition,” Carbonneau said. “We have an advantage and we don’t take advantage of that. That’s the bottom line.”
With starting goaltender Carey Price expected to miss a few more days with a lower-body injury, Jaroslav Halak will get his fourth straight start for Montreal on Tuesday. Montreal wasted some solid efforts from Halak as it wrapped up its seven-game homestand. He’s posted a 2.02 goals-against average in his last three starts, but lost twice.
It may not get any easier against Carolina, which has owned the Canadiens in recent years. The Hurricanes are 11-2-3 in their last 16 games against Montreal, including a 2-1 win in Raleigh on Nov. 18 thanks to third-period goals from Sergei Samsonov and Ray Whitney.
Cam Ward has been in goal for many of those Carolina wins, going 6-1-2 with a 2.26 GAA in his last nine starts against Montreal.
Ward had missed five consecutive games due to a groin injury, but was back in net against the Rangers on Saturday. He made 27 saves and was encouraged with his progress despite the shootout loss.
“I felt great. I’m just trying to get back into the game,” Ward said.
This is Montreal’s first road game since Nov. 28.