It seemed like one team showed up for an NHL playoff game, and another team did not. The Carolina Hurricanes were out-worked, out-shot, out-chanced, out-hustled, and out-muscled by the New Jersey Devils in the opening game of their best of seven series at the Rock on Wednesday night as they lost by a score of 4-1.
The good news for the Canes is that it only counts as one loss. The bad news is, they have a lot of work to do before Friday night. There were few moral victories to draw from after game one.
The Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the opening period when Cam Ward skated out of the crease to play a puck. He sent it along the boards, only to have it taken by Mike Mottau. The Jersey defenseman, who has only scored one goal all season, skated away from the boards and sent a shot toward the net that found it's way past the netminder, who had made several fine saves up to that point.
The Devils controlled play throughout most of the period, helped along by two Hurricane penalties.
The second stanza was even worse for the visitors. Not even a minute into the period, Zach Parise out-worked Eric Staal for the puck to the left of Ward and beat the goalie to the far post. Patrik Elias would then score the third goal of the game at about the 11 minute mark and the Devils were really having their way with the Canes at this point.
In the third period, the Hurricanes finally started to spend some time in the Jersey zone, but they still could only muster 6 shots on goal. During a flurry in front of Marty Brodeur about midway through the period, Ray Whitney slipped a shot past him off of a rebound to put the Canes on the board. The good feeling quickly dissipated though as Jamie Langenbrunner scored for the Devils just 29 seconds later, to close out the scoring.
The Canes were out-shot in each and every period. (15-7, 15-6, 9-6, total 39-19)
At one point the Devils had 18 scoring chances compared to 4 for the Hurricanes.
The setback makes it three losses in a row for the team, going back to the regular season.
Apparently, the Canes never got the memo informing them that Martin Brodeur was one of the better puckhandling goalies on the planet. They repeatedly attempted the "dump and chase" to no avail. While on the powerplay early in the third period, they tried to dump the puck three times in a row, and each time Brodeur skated behind the net, stopped the puck, and shoveled it off to a defenseman who then easily cleared the zone. If the Canes want to move on in this series, (or make it competitive), they will have to come up with another strategy.
The Hurricanes never registered an official shot on goal during their two powerplay attempts.
Carolina is going to have to come up with more emotion and snark in their game. Compared to the other playoff games on Wednesday night, it looked like a very "gentlemanly" contest at the Rock.
Chad LaRose and Ray Whitney led the team with four shots on goal each.
Dennis Seidenberg led the squad with four hits.
Matt Cullen looked no worse for wear considering it was his first game back after his injury and was moved up to the second line again. He was credited with the second assist on Whitney's goal.
While the game was disappointing for fans who had looked forward to exciting playoff hockey all week, momentum can change very quickly in a playoff series. Carolina lost the opening series game one in 2006 by a score of 6-1 at home against Montreal. They lost game two as well, and had to come from behind in game three before fortune finally started to shine their way. The Canes can certainly play better than they did last night and they will need to bring their "A game" sooner rather than later to turn around this series.
John at In Lou We Trust mentions that this is the best the Devils had played in a month. Can they keep it up?