Tuesday was not a good day for team RBH. Almost everything that could go wrong about the game with the Thrashers did. Some non-hockey stuff went slightly wrong too, but that's not what this is about.
Going into Tuesday's game, the Canes were just two points out of first place in the Southeast. They knew that there were basically four points on the line; they would either end up "tied" with Atlanta for second place or four points back, in third. Tampa was sitting atop the division with 69 points and a game in hand on both Atlanta and Carolina.
Carolina scored first and took a 1-0 lead into the room after two periods. Money in the bank, right? This season, they were 21-0 when leading after two. Last season, the Canes were 31-0 when leading after two. In the 03-04 season, Carolina was 23-0-4 when leading after two. The last time Carolina blew a second intermission lead and lost the game was in the 02-03 season.
Five minutes into the third frame, the Thrashers scored their first of three unanswered goals on a very freaky play. The Canes were wasting a power play opportunity, Atlanta cleared the puck deep into the Carolina zone, and Eric Staal very nonchalantly went back for it. Just a Sunday skate-around. Maid Marian Hossa had other plans. He skated hard to the northwest corner, beat Staal to the puck and fired a shot towards the goal from literally behind the goal line. Cam Ward didn't give his best effort either, and the puck glanced off his right skate into the net. Marian Hossa might have been more surprised than anyone in the arena. His celebration was delayed, almost as if he had to ask someone if that really just happened.
The freakish goal should be two lessons rolled into one. First: If you're an attacking player, even in a shorthanded situation, good things can happen when you throw the puck in the direction of the net. That was an impossible angle, but he got the crazy bounce. Second: If you're a goaltender in a situation like that, you have to pay better attention, and you have to get your skate flush against the post to prevent just such a carom. Bad, bad, bad.
The Canes went on to blow a five-on-three power play, then gave up two more goals in the final three minutes to turn the night from "promising" to "dismal". A turnover deep in the Carolina zone led to a breakaway for Ilya Kovalchuk, and he didn't miss.
Later, Eric Boulton added an insurance marker and the Canes were done.
Meanwhile, Tampa won their game. Now the Bolts are alone in first with 71 points and a game in hand. Atlanta is second with 71 points, and Carolina is third with 67.
Carolina is barely "in" a playoff spot with one point more than "ninth place" Toronto. However, the Leafs have two games in hand.
To make matters worse, Carolina lost Erik Cole during the pre-game skate. Apparently, he pulled a muscle in the same general area as the hip pointer that caused him to just miss three games. He's out for at least two weeks, maybe four. Ryan Bayda had just been sent down to Albany that day, so they couldn't recall him. Carolina had no choice but to dress 8 defensemen. Peter Laviolette likes to play with seven sometimes, but eight is just too many. Even the defensemen with offensive upside are still wired to play like defensemen.
I'm guessing Bayda will be back up, and we might see a push to get Andrew Hutchinson traded for a forward. I know this might not be a popular stance, but I'd like to see Anson Carter. I've vacillated on this issue a bit, I admit, but I'm mostly in favor of that idea. Perhaps a different post on a different day, I'll get into depth about it, but for now, let's say I'm for it.
All I'll say right now is that Carter likes to wear a sweater with a repeating number and that the numbers 33, 44, 55, 66, 77 and 88 are all available.
The one good thing that happened on Tuesday is that Rod Brind'Amour's goal in the second period helped him pass Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard on the all-time points list with 1047 (401/646) points in 1245 career games. Richard retired with 11 Stanley Cups and notched 1046 (358/688) points in 1259 games. The more famous Maurice "Rocket" Richard, who was 15 years older than his brother, retired with 965 (544/421) points in 978 career games, and won the Cup eight times. Brindy won't win the Cup nearly as many times as the Richard boys, but he's in some very elite company now.
5 years ago