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Perfect Strangers

The team didn't look much like a team last night. They looked like a bunch of individuals wearing Hurricanes sweaters. Their passing was off target much of the time and any previous cohesiveness developed in recent games seemed to be gone. The powerplay was simply pathetic, especially when they failed to generate even a single shot on goal after two consecutive Washington penalties late in the 2nd period. They knocked a goal into their own net. They missed a wide open net on the other end. They allowed not one, but two empty net goals at the end of the game. It was another uninspired, lackluster, and disappointing performance at home. It was another opportunity wasted. Their coach called their performance "brutal" and stormed out of the post-game interview after 30 seconds and slammed the door hard on his way out.  Perhaps he was attempting to set a new record for shortest coach's interview ever?

On paper, their performance doesn't look that bad. They outshot the Caps 36-30 and outhit them 34-33, but their decision making at times is what was brutal. I remember two times specifically when Brind'Amour was skating the puck over the blueline and dropped the puck back behind him, to nobody. Apparently doing it once wasn't good enough, he had to do the exact same thing, with the exact same results, immediately after the first time. The captain didn't have the best of nights, but in his defense he is playing through a foot injury. He was skating on one normal skate and one doctored one which looked like it had duct-tape on it. Who says that there are not unlimited uses for duct-tape? Maybe Lavi should try duct tape on the power play?

David Tanabe opened the scoring, but unfortunately it was for the Capitals. After another slow start which saw the Caps out-shooting the Canes from the get-go, Washington captain Chris Clark fired a puck from center ice harmlessly toward the Hurricane's corner. Tanabe raised his stick to stop or deflect the puck, but instead redirected it into the Canes net. John Grahame was cheating a bit and left the net wide open for the easy Capital goal. Blame whomever you want, it's a bonehead, freak play that should never happen. Why don't the Canes ever get goals like that? Later in the period, Dennis Seidenberg had an open wrap around chance. I thought it was a sure goal, but somehow he hit the post on the play! It was a pretty uneventful first period other than that, oh and surprise surprise, Justin Williams got called for diving. Thank you Jacques Martin!

The second period was as forgetable as the first. Alexander "the not so great" Semin deeked Glen Wesley out of his skates to get open right off of a face off and rifled a shot past Grahame. Glen looked his age as he picked himself off the ice after that play. Give Semin credit though, it was a beautiful move and shot. Eric Belanger was on the penalty kill when a puck bounced out and he beat the Capital players to it which created a sweet breakaway chance. He faked a slap shot, then tried to put a move on Kolzig but then fumbled the puck without getting a shot off. Ouch, it looked a bit like Eric Cole's penalty shot last week. It's hard for fans to watch opportunities like that get squandered without even a shot put on net. The period ended with the score Caps 2, Canes 0.

The third period started with the Canes moving with more jump. Apparently Laviolette didn't like the chemistry within the lines previously because he mixed them all up. Staal and Ladd played together. LaRose moved up to play with Brindy. To be honest, I couldn't keep track of who was playing on what line, it was like a mish mash. But the mish mash was working and Carolina put constant pressure in the Washington end until finally Mike Commodore fired a shot/pass through the crease which Erik Cole was able to get his stick on and put into the net. That made the score 2-1 and the comeback was on. The Canes continued to put pressure on, but they were unable to finish any chances. The defensemen were pressing in the offensive zone hard and the forwards were trying to cover for them. While this happened, Alexander "you can't see me" Semin popped out at the blue line again for a break away chance. Ray Whitney tried but didn't have a prayer to stop him. Semin didn't fumble his chance away, he buried it. I thought that might have been it, but on an ensuing rush for the Canes, Ray Whitney fired a hard shot that Eric Staal tipped and that gave the home crowd some hope again as the score was 3-2.

With a minute left in the game, Grahame left the net for an extra attacker and another freaky play went against the Canes. The puck was sent down to the Cane's end and Chris Clark for the Caps was away after it. The closest Cane was Dennis Seidenberg who was racing to the net as fast as he could. Clark gathered the puck near the corner and skated toward the net. They met at the net with Dennis sprawling toward Clark, but accidentally gloving the puck into the the goal. 4-2 Caps and game over, right? Wrong! Lavi pulled the goalie again for some reason (maybe he was angry), and almost immediately Ovechkin got the puck at center ice and rifled a shot at the empty net. Bingo, 5-2 Caps! Great news for people who betted the over. If you bet on the under, you'd have to be talking to yourself about that giveaway goal. (the over/under was 6.5 goals).

There's not much more to say about the game. I've said it before and I'll repeat it, there still seems to be something missing. I think that is what frustrates Laviolette so much, he can't seem to fix it. Sometimes these things can work themselves out. While the team can not seem to push themselves into the elite status so far this year, they certainly are good enough to remain in the playoff hunt. Their home record isn't scaring anyone at 13-8-2, but if we compare around the east, even Buffalo's home record isn't much better at 15-7-2. Atlanta, New Jersey, and Montreal are the only other teams in the east who have better home records than we do. We have another chance tomorrow night at home against the Boltz, who are playing better hockey of late. Let's hope that Lavi doesn't come into contact with anymore doors and hurt himself before that game. Go Canes!

Deep Purple