Hurricanes attempt to jump-start punchless power play by turning back the clock

In a fruitless — so far, anyway — attempt to improve their offense, the Carolina Hurricanes doubled up on defense. Brent Burns and Shayne Gostisbhere skated out together on the Hurricanes’ first power play Tuesday, turning back the clock to the turn of the century.

It’s de rigueur in the modern NHL to use four forwards, as the Hurricanes have for years. But the Hurricanes have reached the point of frustration with the man advantage where they’re willing to try just about anything.

Burns and Gostisbehere — playing with Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas and Stefan Noesen — fared no better together as the Hurricanes went 0-for-2 in a flat 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. And that was before Noesen exited the game with a right knee injury, his status uncertain.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was noncommittal whether he’d stick with Burns and Gostisbehere, something that’s worked well in extra-attacker situations, but at this point, there’s no harm in letting the experiment run its course. It’s not like things were going much better with the two triggermen on separate units.

“I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s a work in progress. We had injuries today and that changes everything. We’ll keep tweaking until we get some sort of traction.”

Over the nine games since Andrei Svechnikov was lost for the season, the Hurricanes are 2-for-20 on the power play, a skid notable not only for the failure to convert, but the scarcity of opportunities.

That’s as worrying a trend as the production: They’ve had a total of 42 chances over the past 18 games, only one fewer than their opponents, but nine of those could be charitably described as useless — evening up penalty totals in already-decided games, overlapping with their own penalties or in the final seconds of regulation, although the Hurricanes turned a token penalty with 7 seconds to go in Philadelphia into a 5-4 overtime win.

If you can’t count on second chances, you’ve got to make the most of the ones you have. And the Hurricanes certainly aren’t doing that. The retooled units generated nothing when the Hurricanes received a power play down 1-0 early in the second period or down 2-0 late in the second. They generated a total of five shot attempts in four minutes.

And if things were difficult enough without Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty, they’re not going to get any easier if Noesen — one of the few players willing to stake a claim in the crease and fight to stay there — is out for any length of time.

This was, despite the lack of sizzle, still a playoff-style game, with chances few and far between, and the kind of game decided by special teams and goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy was far better than Pyotr Kochetkov, and the Hurricanes couldn’t wedge anything loose on the power play. That’s how seasons end early.

The Hurricanes’ penalty-kill remains as good as ever, second in the NHL, always a threat to score. But the power play that so let them down last spring certainly appears ready to do it again. There’s no excuse for a team with this much skill to be stumbling along at 20.8 percent, 18th in the NHL. They’ve shown they can get hot — they were 9-for-30 in January, commendably — but more than that, they need to get consistent.

“We’re concerned,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s a big part of the game so you want to get clicking on it. Didn’t really love it today either. We’ve got to keep trying to find a way to make it dangerous. That’s the whole key on the power play.”

So they tried something new, which was actually something old, and why not? What the Hurricanes had been doing wasn’t working. They’ve got a few weeks left to figure out something that does.

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