Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov both returned to the lineup as expected for the Carolina Hurricanes, but in the end, it mattered not. The Canes lost in familiar fashion on Monday night, this time to the Tampa Bay Lightning, by a score of 3-2. The loss was the third straight for the boys in red.
The good news is that LaRose played more like the 2008-09 version, a player who skated with recklass abandon and who had the ability to chip in with a goal or two when needed. Fans had yet to see that version this season, although coach Paul Maurice said after the game that the forward had been skating injured at the beginning of the year.
But why? (more about that later)
The Lightning would strike first, (no pun intended), when Ryan Malone won a battle in front of the Hurricanes net and chipped a puck between Cam Ward's legs. There was a real tough scrum in the crease and it was hard to see the puck until it was too late. The lackluster period ended with the score 1-0 and with the crowd somewhat lethargic.
The second period started a bit better for the home team and they came out with more fire. Matt Cullen would win a battle in front of the Tampa net this time, as he and Eric Staal were fighting for the puck in the Lightning's crease. Cullen's tying goal was his ninth.
But for what has been the story more often than not this season, the opposition would answer quickly. At 18:09, Niclas Wallin took an interference call and at 18:55, Vincent Lecavalier knocked in a loose puck at the doorstep to help the visitors regain the lead.
In the third period, the Canes came out with jump once again. Just four minutes into it, Tim Gleason found Chad LaRose breaking into the clear at the blue line. LaRose made a nice play to gain control of the puck, then put a nasty move on Antero Niittymaki to tie the score. The crowd really got into the game after that play, but the spark was to be shortlived.
Martin St. Louis made a beautiful play behind his net and found an open Steve Downie, and the controversial player tipped in the game winner. The goal would deflate the Hurricanes enough so that they could not get over the hump. Near the end of the game they pulled the goalie, (something they should be getting better at because they have tried it so many times), but they were unable to mount any reasonable pressure or shots on goal in the process.
The powerplay attempts for the team during this game were a disgrace as the Canes could barely keep control of the puck in their own zone, let alone put any decent shots on net. They finished 0-4 while with the man advantage while Tampa was 1-2.
Carolina will take Tuesday off as their next game is not until Thursday in Atlanta.
- Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty continue to look like the real deal as they put up several close scoring chances throughout the game. Later in the contest when Maurice moved LaRose to that line, it seemed to even make them better. That is a line to look forward to, if they keep them together.
- The Hurricanes were out-shot 32-22 and could not muster double digit shots in any period. They simply have to get more shots on net if they realistically expect to win games, especially with four powerplay chances. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen led the team with four.
- Chad LaRose led the team with six hits. Next in line were Andrew Alberts and Aaron Ward with three each.
- Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen had four blocked shots each. Pitkanen had 29:35 of ice time, which will add to his league leading average. The Finn has obviously paid attention to the coach's advice to shoot more. His totals have gone up considerably in recent games.
Question for the masses....
Coach Maurice said last night that LaRose had been playing injured earlier in the season and had been more or less playing on "one knee". It was previously released that Eric Staal had pulled a groin at the Olympics camp and he was, (according to Ray Whitney), "playing on one leg" at the beginning of the season.
No wonder the team couldn't win.
While hindsight is always 20/20, why were these guys playing? With a cupboard full of prospects in Albany, who have shown that they are more than capable to fill in if needed, why are the regulars up here skating on one leg while the losses mount? It would seem logical that injured players should rest until they are healthy enough to contribute, especially as the team is mired in a 14 game losing streak.
It's nice that LaRose is healthy enough to be effective now, but it's too little too late. It's a shame they did not rest him earlier in the year, so that his healthy return would have more meaning.