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So Close

The Carolina Hurricanes came so close last night. They came so close to scoring, many times. They came very close to tying the game. In April, will they be saying they came "so close" to making the playoffs? It looks as if that is a strong possibility unless their high scoring forwards can start finding the back of the net again. The Devils beat the Canes last night, 3-2. Jersey opened the scoring on a shot by Scott Gomez just 39 clicks into the game. The Canes tied it later in the 1st on a shot by David Tanabe as he joined the rush. After a slow 2nd period, the Devils took the lead early in the 3rd period and barely hung on to it the rest of the game.

For much of the night, especially the 3rd period, it was a very exciting game with a playoffs feel and atmosphere. On the plus side of the ledger, the Hurricanes really cranked up the intensity when they needed it the most and applied almost constant pressure on the Devils once they got down 3-1. They fired a total of 23 shots on Brodeur during the 3rd period, (40 for the game), but Marty was equal to the challenge and stopped 22 of them. (With the help of a couple of quick whistles most goalies don't get.) While the game was exciting as exciting can be, it's hard to take anything positive from it when the team needed the win and 2 points so desperately. New Jersey was playing the 2nd game of a back to back on the road and was playing without 3 of their best players, (Elias, Gionta, and Madden), 2 of whom are their leading scorers. Carolina failed to capitalize on these distinct advantages.

On the negative side of the ledger, the Canes practically giftwrapped 2 goals for the Devils. Scott Gomez was wide open for a shot on Grahame just 39 seconds in the game. Why does it usually take the Canes awhile to get "into" the game? This has happened multiple times this year, but for them to allow such an early goal in a crucial game like this is inexcusable, in my opinion. The next goal for the Devils came just 40 seconds into the 3rd period. This one was more understandable and came near the end of a power play rush, but there was still a break down on defense. The Devils 3rd goal later in the period was the result of a poor clear by Grahame and failure to control the clear by Whitney. I guess they can share the blame, it doesn't matter. The puck eventually found it's way on Zach Parise's stick for a wide open deke move past Grahame. So those were two wide open opportunities and two goals. The Canes did not have an open chance like that all night thanks to the tightly checking Devil's defense.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the losers, and plenty of credit goes to the winners. Simplistically speaking, Brodeur stole the game for the Devils. But looking at things more in depth, the Canes can't allow themselves to wait until they are losing 3-1 to crank up the intensity and put pressure on the net. They can't allow those easy goals to start the game which puts themselves behind the 8 ball right from the very beginning. They can't allow weak turnovers in their own end which create easy chances for the opposition. They can't do those things and expect to win high pressure, tight games. As we have said repeatedly about the power play lately, (which was scoreless again last night), for the most part the effort was there, but the results weren't. It was a fun and exciting game to attend, but it always stings to lose.

Young Andrew Ladd may have summed it up best in his quote from the News and Observer, "We waited until the 3rd period to start doing that, getting traffic in front of him. Obviously he is a great goaltender. If you don't get traffic, then you're not going to get chances." Hopefully the Canes will remember this the next game and play inspired hockey right from the opening face off. They will have another chance in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon. Will the Canes pick up their first win against the Devils this year, or will they remain winless against them? We will see. Go Canes!

Hall and Oates