The Carolina Hurricanes went from one side of the spectrum to the other side, all in one game. They finally opened a game with some jump and were all over the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in the 1st period as they took a 1-0 lead, but eased off a bit in the 2nd period, and then ended up mailing in the 3rd as the Pens scored 4 consecutive goals within 13 minutes to take the game, 4-1.
Sergei Samsonov picked up the lone goal for the Canes as Andrew Ladd made a pass that bounced off a Pen and luckily ended up on Sergei's stick. The waiver wire pickup made no mistake and buried the shot giving the Canes the lead and apparently also giving the team a false sense of security. The Canes looked great in the period on offense and defense but slacked off a bit in the 2nd. Then they totally disappeared in the 3rd.
The league's worst penalty kill allowed 2 goals again tonight. The powerplay was ineffective the entire night as well. After a couple of decent games, special teams looks to be broken again. The Pens had better quality chances short-handed than the Canes did with the man advantage. Cam Ward had several good saves and looked strong during the 1st two periods, but looked like he lost his confidence in the 3rd. To the Pens credit, they sent everyone to the front of the net and put a lot of pressure on Ward, and the Canes didn't have an answer.
The outcome leaves the Hurricanes scratching their heads as they go home to rest up a day or two before flying to Nashville to play the Predators on Tuesday night. It's another one of those games that's hard to explain because it seemed like the effort disappeared for parts of it. While Eric Staal and a couple of other players look like they are trying hard, some of them seem to skate around like they don't care. What's up with Cory Stillman? Perhaps he is hurt because he is a shell of the player that he normally is. Since this is a contract year, these crappy games could end up costing him millions when contract negotiations start in the offseason.
Neither Trevor Letowski or Jeff Hamilton seem to be capable of filling in adequately at 3rd line center. Again, I was impressed by Keith Aucoin his last stint in Raleigh. At this point, what will it hurt to try him again? Letowski is tied for the worst plus/minus on the team with -13. While he had a good game the other night, he was ineffective tonight and has been most of the year.
Does Jim Rutherford push the button on a trade now, or remain patient? The Hurricanes are in a dead tie with Atlanta for the division lead with identical records of 26-25-4. Washington and Florida are both right behind with 53 points and have games in hand. If Carolina ever falls behind in the division race, will they have the strength and confidence to catch up even if Matt Cullen is able to play again? This tough road stretch has just started, there are 4 more games to go. Where will the Canes be in the division race the next time they play in the RBC?