The first six games of the Carolina Hurricanes' 2013-14 season have followed a similar pattern to that of their past several campaigns.
The 'Canes, well-stocked with talent yet inexperienced and largely unfamiliar with success, remain remarkably shaky and inefficient in close games.
After kicking off the season by allowing a goal in the final 17 seconds of regulation and another in overtime en route to a heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Hurricanes effectively held on to identical one-goal, third-period leads in two of their next three games and seemed to be on track to buck the trend.
But a Western Conference homestand has since quickly dissipated any such optimism.
The Los Angeles Kings entered Raleigh on Friday night and exited with a 2-1 shootout win, dropping the 'Canes' record in the breakaway competition to a miserable 2-8 since the start of the 2011-12 season.
The Phoenix Coyotes then raced out of a 3-3 second-intermission tie on Sunday afternoon to score twice in the third frame's opening eight minutes and defeat Carolina 5-3.
And so, entering Tuesday's high-stakes battle with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Hurricanes' record stands at a survivable yet undeniably subpar 2-2-2.
Indeed, it seems as though it has been years since the "Cardiac 'Canes" truly fulfilled the implications of that affectionate nickname. Carolina's success in games featuring one-goal deficits and third-period ties has been almost nonexistent over the past few seasons, and it's cost the team dearly in the standings.
The Hurricanes' struggles in tight contests appear most clearly in their overtime record—a poor 25-42 mark since the fall of 2009 and an appalling 6-22 split since autumn of 2011.
By comparison, the 2008-09 campaign—the last playoff year in Raleigh—boasted a 10-7 extra-time record for the 'Canes.
Meanwhile, Carolina's record in matches decided by one goal has also left plenty to be desired: 22-36 over the past three seasons. In the fruitful aforementioned 2008-09 year, that record stood at an impeccable 24-8-7 (second-best in the league).
Why have the 'Canes performed so badly in these situations?
It's not a result of a plethora of comebacks that just fall short. Rather, the Hurricanes have emerged as one of the league's worst teams at closing out games.
No team in the league allowed more third-period goals than Carolina did (61) in 2012-13. Only three teams allowed more third-period goals than Carolina did (90) in 2011-12. Only six teams allowed more third-period goals than Carolina did (85) in 2010-11.
Unsurprisingly, only one team (New Jersey) has allowed more third-period goals than Carolina has (eight) after the first two weeks of the 2013-14 campaign.
Some may place the blame for the 'Canes' inexplicable and highly costly late-game, clutch-moment struggles on bad luck.
Over such a lengthy time span, however, there's hardly anything luck-based about this disturbing and recurring pattern.
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