A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Canes fall to Avs

On Saturday, the Hurricanes blew three separate two-goal leads against the Avalanche en route to losing their second straight game. The final tally was 5-4 Colorado. This was their fourth consecutive home loss and the seventh loss in the last ten games.

Because of the unbalanced schedule, the last time the Avs were in Raleigh was five years to the day. That was a 3-2 victory for Colorado with Milan Hejduk getting the winner in overtime.

This game started off well for the home team, but it did not end well.

Erik Cole scored his tenth goal of the season at 8:45 of the first. Sergei Samsonov made a wonderfully creative stretch pass, banking it off the right wing wall to spring Colesy on a breakaway. Cole drove hard to the left goal post, forcing José Théodore to overplay. At the last second, Cole tapped it back towards the right post and it crossed the line easily. It was Samsonov's first point in a Hurricanes sweater. Rod Brind'Amour picked up the secondary assist and reached the 1100 point plateau for his career.

Keith Aucoin, taking advantage of a flu- and injury- plague that has knocked NINE Hurricanes out of the lineup, scored his second goal in as many games at 18:01. His slapshot from the top of the right circle easily beat Captain Propecia. Tim Conboy, playing in his first NHL game, got the lone assist.

Earlier in the first, on Conboy's very first NHL shift, he fought with Scott Parker, who threw Conboy around like a rag doll.

Milan Hejduk, the one-time Rocket Richard winner, got the Avs on the board at 0:50 of the second. Andrew Brunette's wrap chance was foiled, but Hejduk was there to shove the rebound in from the doorstep. Paul Stastny got the secondary assist.

Chad "Sharpie" LaRose got his sixth goal of the season by picking up the loosed change of a Keith Aucoin shot from below the left circle. All he did was touch the loose puck as it was scooting along the goal line, but it looks like a one-timer in the box score. Mike Commodore, who also fought in the first period, picked up the secondary assist.

Carolina had three players well on their way to a Gordie Howe hat trick. In the end, none of them got it. Aucoin didn't have a fight and neither Commodore nor Conboy had a goal.

Carolina had restored their two goal lead, and things were still looking good.

Stastny narrowed the margin again with a goal at 10:02 of the second. He worked really hard to gather the rebound of a Jaro Hlinka shot from the right circle. Cam made a pad save, but sent it straight out in front. It kind of handcuffed Stastny, but he found a way to knock it in. Cody McLeod got the second assist.

Again, though, the Hurricanes were able to restore the two goal lead. Cory Stillman rifled a blast from above the right circle that surprised Théodore. Casey Borer got the primary assist and Cam Ward got the secondary. It came on a last-gasp effort with one second remaining in a power play.

The Stillman goal was an example of urgency. It was the first time in a long time I'd seen the boys displaying anything resembling urgency. I thought that it might be a huge confidence booster and perhaps a fulcrum for the season.

The period ended like that, and the first ten minutes of the final period. It looked like the Canes were going to seal it up and get going on the right foot again. That all came crashing down in a five minute sequence of the third.

Cody McLeod scored a wrap-around goal at 10:23, assisted by Cody McCormick and Jeff Finger. As was the case all night long, the Avalanche had bodies in front of the net and the Hurricanes were letting them do it. Frantisek Kaberle looked terrible on the play. He should have been covering the right post, which is where McCleod snuck in. Instead, he was busy screening Cam Ward. All five Hurricanes were overloading the left side of the ice while there were three white sweaters on the right side. It wasn't entirely Kaberle's fault, but he looked bad.

This time, the Canes were unable to restore the two-goal cushion. Marek Svatos banked a shot from the low slot off the post and in at 13:50. Tyler Arnason and Jordan Leopold assisted.

Two minutes later, at 15:57, Svatos notched the game winning goal. after a remarkably poor job by Eric Staal of holding the puck in the Colorado end and an even worse job of backchecking going the other way, the Avs entered the Carolina zone with a 3-on-2 rush. A shot came from the left circle, and Svatos was there to tip in the rebound. Arnason and Wojtek Wolski got the assists.

The Avalanche had scored three unanswered goals to take all of the wind out of Carolina's sails.

The "official" three stars went to Keith Aucoin (third), Paul Stastny (second) and Marek Svatos (first). I had it a little differently. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Tyler Arnason, COL --- 2 assists, 2 takeaways
SECOND STAR Keith Aucoin, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist, +3
FIRST STAR Marek Svatos, COL --- 2 goals, GWG

Carolina has a couple of days off before they begin another Canadian road trip. They will visit the Leafs on Tuesday and the mighty Senators on Thursday before returning home for a date with the Oilers on Friday.

The last time the Canes had a streak of Canadian opponents on the road, they flourished. Unfortunately, there are no more visits to Montréal this season.

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