On Friday night, a very lackluster Hurricanes team lost to the visiting Penguins by a 4-3 tally. The loss was their second in as many days following the 5-3 loss at Tampa on Thursday night.
The two losses, though, were not similar in any way. On Thursday, the Canes played well, and just got outplayed in the end. As coach Laviolette summed it up "Maybe it just wasn't meant to be". The Canes got off to an über-quick start when Aaron Ward scored a goal at 00:23. Later, Babchuk would score at 4:00 of the first to make it 2-0, and the boys were seemingly off and running. After the Bolts surged back to tie it, Erik Cole netted one at 4:08 of the second, which sent Sean "Wife Choker" Burke to the showers. Carolina immediately put pressure on John Grahame, who came on in relief of the former Hurricanes netminder. However, it was to no avail, as Grahame would turn away all 28 shots he faced. It was really an amazing performance by the USA team member. If he can play like that in Torino, and if Gretzky's involvement in Wagergate can be enough of a distraction to team Canada, then the USA may have a great chance.
Seriously, I have to tip my hat to Grahame for absolutely stealing that game for the Bolts. Carolina did everything they could, but they just couldn't solve Grahame.
Friday was a completely different story. They came in flat-footed. Lethargic. Lackluster. Pluckless, Sans verve. Whatever you want to use to describe a bunch of guys who were scarcely even "going through the motions". Somehow, they managed to get 36 shots on goal, but I would still characterize their play as listless, dull and uninspired. I wonder if fatigue was a factor. They played on the road just 24 hours previous, and had in fact just gotten in from a three game road swing. I wonder also if the looming Olympic break had something to do with it. I don't know, but I wasn't happy at all about the way the boys played against the worst team in the league.
Cam Ward was rotten. He didn't have control of his rebounds, and he failed to ice the puck in key situations that led to Penguins goals. He only faced 26 shots, and he let four of them in.
There was one thing that I liked about the game. Eric Staal had a hand in all three goals. He scored his first goal at 19:59.6 of the first after Caron denied Viva on an excellent breakaway chance. The goal just beat the horn. In the second, he assisted Cory Stillman on a blue line blast for a power play goal to tie it at 2. Then, late in the third, while the Canes were on a five-on-three, Staal scored his second goal of the game .
After the three point night, Staal has 36 goals and 38 assists for a total of 74 points. With 26 games remaining, 100 points is well within reach. He totaled 31 points (11/20) in '03-04.
The game was refereed by Kerry Fraser. In the wake of Propeciagate, I wonder if aqua net is on the banned substance list.
Up next for the Canes will be a Sunday matinee against the visiting Sabres. My dear friend Amanda will be there rooting for her Sabres. I won't be sitting next to her.
After that, the NHL takes a two week break for the Olympics. During the interim, you may has well call this place "red, white and blue hockey".
4 years ago