The Canes' Jeff Skinner (53) and Derek Ryan (7) battle the Jets' Blake Wheeler (26), Mark Scheifele (55) and Josh Morrissey (44) for the puck during the second period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Winnipeg Jets at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on March 4, 2018. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
The Canes' Jeff Skinner (53) and Derek Ryan (7) battle the Jets' Blake Wheeler (26), Mark Scheifele (55) and Josh Morrissey (44) for the puck during the second period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Winnipeg Jets at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on March 4, 2018. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Luke DeCock

Hurricanes need to put a run together, but they’re running out of time

By Luke DeCock

ldecock@newsobserver.com

March 04, 2018 10:27 PM

RALEIGH

Still can't stand prosperity. Still can't string wins together. Still can't get over the hump.

Nothing is going to change for the Carolina Hurricanes until they figure out how to change the essence of who and what they are.

Once again with a chance to move into a playoff position with a win Sunday, the Hurricanes once again piled up shots but once again not goals in a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The winning streak ended at two.

Had the Hurricanes won, it would have been only their fifth winning streak of three games or longer. Their longest is four, during that stretch of seven wins in eight games around Christmas on either side the 8-1 debacle in Toronto.

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But that was a long time ago, and even as the other contenders for the final playoff spot founder – New Jersey lost Sunday – the Hurricanes can't make up any ground. One solid, long streak of five or six or seven wins might be enough to vault the Hurricanes into the eighth spot for good, but this team hasn't come close to that all season.

“We're right there, obviously,” said Jordan Staal, a goal-scorer in his third game back with the team since his leave of absence. “I'm not sure what happened to night but we've got to put together a streak here. Two and one and then one, that's not going to do it.”

If that sounds familiar, it's essentially the same thing Justin Williams said a month ago – “Playoff teams string five, six, seven wins together and we haven't done that” – and it's still true.

Nothing has changed. Something always gets in the way, whether it's goaltending – the common denominator at the end of all four of those three-game-plus streaks is Scott Darling starts – or a popgun offense or special-teams breakdowns or brain-cramp defense. Until that changes, neither will this playoff drought.

It's a mental issue as much as anything: a combination of an inability to sustain the effort level that this team needs to be successful and a lack of the fortitude to handle the pressure that comes with claiming a spot in the top eight. Both have been true for years, across multiple coaches and captains, and with each passing season, become more and more entrenched and difficult to eradicate.

Effort wasn't an issue Sunday, nor was goaltending. Cam Ward played well enough to win, even giving up three goals on 23 shots. The one that turned out to be the game-winner hit the crossbar and the neck of referee Eric Furlatt before it fell to Peter Stastny's stick to knock into an empty net. Teuvo Teravainen is playing his best hockey with the Hurricanes, and it’s still not enough.

So two wins did not become three, and the Hurricanes go back to square one. Again. Winnipeg is a good team, but this game was there for the taking, and now they have to go on the road to play the Wild and the Blackhawks and the Rangers. Only one of those teams is in playoff position. If the Hurricanes can win in Minnesota, they have a chance to gather some momentum, even on the road.

They have 16 games left. They need to get on some kind of a run, or they're going to run out of time.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock