It's well documented that the Carolina Hurricanes have lost all three of their series openers this postseason, with Monday's 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh the most recent. The team has also bounced back against both New Jersey and Boston to take Game 2, re-establishing their game and setting the tone for a long series.
Tomorrow's game presents another such challenge. While Carolina played their best Game 1 of the playoffs, it still wasn't enough, and they face playing without either or both Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole.
Historically, this core of players has found a way to win Game 2's. Here's a look at their past six and how they fared.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Montreal
This was Cam Ward's playoff debut. The Hurricanes' rookie goalie replaced starter Martin Gerber 15 minutes into the game with the Canes down 3-0. Carolina responded with four straight goals, only to see the Habs score twice early in the third to take a 5-4 lead. Cory Stillman's goal with 90 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Canadiens prevailed early in the second session on a Michael Ryder goal. But Ward's play — specifically in the third period — earned him the nod in Game 3. Carolina won that game and the three after it to win the series.
Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. New Jersey
Coming off a dominant 6-0 win in Game 1, the Canes knew the veteran Devils would come with more fight for the series' second game. They did. New Jersey led 1-0 until late in the second when Mark Recchi scored a power play goal to tie it. Scott Gomez gave the Devils a 2-1 lead with just 21 seconds left, and the RBC Center began to empty. But Eric Staal got a shot past Martin Brodeur with just three seconds left to send it to OT. Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin scored 3:09 into overtime, sliding the puck past Brodeur for the game-winner. Carolina went on to win the series in five.
Eastern Conference Finals vs. Buffalo Sabres
Carolina dropped Game 1, 3-2, but were ready to even the series two nights later. Ray Whitney's two second-period goals gave the Canes a 3-1 lead, and Justin Williams scored 6:58 into the third to bump the lead to three. The Sabres' Chris Drury scored to cut the lead to a pair, and Derek Roy scored in the final seconds, but the Hurricanes came away with a 4-3 win, evening the series heading to Buffalo for Game 3. It took seven games, but Carolina won the series and headed to the Cup Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals vs. Edmonton Oilers
After a dramatic Game 1 win that saw captain Rod Brind'Amour pickpocket replacement goalie Ty Conklin for the winner, Carolina made quick work of Edmonton in Game 2 en route to a 2-0 series lead. Rookie Andrew Ladd scored in the first and the Hurricanes added a pair in each of the final two periods for a 5-0 win. The Oilers refocused to split the next to games at at home, then had a miracle win in Game 5 (Fernando Pisani's shorthanded overtime breakaway winner) and dominant performance in Game 6. But Carolina returned to Raleigh and won the deciding seventh game 3-1.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. New Jersey
Carolina bounced back from a disappointing Game 1 to win the next game in Newark on Tim Gleason's overtime winner, his first goal of the season. The 2-1 win was a defensive affair, with stars Zach Parise and Staal trading first-period markers before Gleason won it more than 40 minutes later. The series see-sawed back and forth, with each team winning alternate games until Carolina broke the trend with their second consecutive win, an improbable come-from-behind Game 7 victory.
Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Boston
Like the previous series, the Canes came out flat in Game 1 on the road and needed a big effort to earn a split in Boston. They got it, specifically from Ward, who stopped 36 shots for a 3-0 shutout. The Canes won Game 3 & 4 at home before losing the next two, once again setting up a dramatic seventh game on the road. Scott Walker, a villain in Beantown for his Game 5 punch to Aaron Ward, scored in overtime — his first career playoff goal — and celebrated with the exuberance of a 12 year old. We later learned Walker had been playing with a heavy heart: his wife, Julie, had recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer. While the cancer was detected early and believed curable, Julie was clearly on Walker's mind in his emotional postgame interview.
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What does tomorrow's Game 2 hold in store? If history is any indicator, Carolina will be at its best in an attempt to get a split before returning to Raleigh for Saturday's third game. But even if Pittsburgh were to win the first two games of the series, a 2-0 lead isn't insurmountable. Ask the Penguins: they trailed Washington by two games before returning to Pittsburgh and winning Game 3, en route to a seven-game series win.