The Flyers handed the Hurricanes their fifth straight home loss and defeated them last night by a score of 2-1. Jeff Carter got the game-winner on a goal off of a faceoff with about a minute and a half left in overtime. The contest was a defensive struggle as the Hurricanes tightened up play in the neutral zone as well as in their own end, but the team continues to have trouble putting the puck in the net.
Newly recalled defensemen Casey Borer and Tim Conboy played solidly in their own end and didn't make any glaring turnovers or mistakes. Conboy kept the peace very well when he was on the ice, but did get called for an incidental high-sticking penalty in the second period.
Before the game, the pairing of Anton Babchuk and Joni Pitkanen might have concerned a few fans, but other than a couple of mistakes, all things considered they both played pretty well. Pitkanen was on the ice for 29 minutes and Babchuk played a season high 26.
The Flyers opened the scoring, (the 12th consecutive game the Canes fell behind), on a short-handed goal by Mike Richards. The puck bounced past Joni Pitkanen, then somehow got past Joe Corvo and Richards broke open on Michael Leighton and easily put it past the Carolina goalie.
The first period was filled with penalties and the Hurricanes looked unorganized and disheveled while with the man advantage. They failed to even get a shot off during one 4-on-3 sequence. Later in the period, Wade Brookbank dropped the gloves with Riley Cote and they had a spirited bout.
In my opinion, the second period looked a little flat. The Flyers outshot the Canes, 14-8 but the home team had a decent penalty kill for this game.
In the third period the Canes finally broke through on the powerplay as Ray Whitney found an open Sergei Samsonov and the sniper buried the puck in the open net to tie the score. Neither team had any tremendous opportunities after that, and the game went into overtime. Carolina had the edge in shots on goal in the extra frame, (5-3) but the Flyers made the shot that mattered the most and prolonged the Canes losing streak.
The players were fairly up-beat afterwards in the locker room. They were not happy that they lost the game, but felt like they were making progress.
Carolina plays again on Sunday, (today) in a huge game against Washington. If they lose this game, they will fall behind the Caps by 8 points, and the Caps have had their share of injuries (Semin, Green) just like the Canes. They will be tough to catch when everyone gets healthy.
The Canes have lost six of their last seven games and five in a row at home. Under the new regime of head coach Paul Maurice they are 0-2, (0-1-1).
The attendance was a disappointing 14,061, very low for a Saturday night. (It was higher on Thursday night) The Canes rely heavily on walk-up sales right before game time, and right now they are not getting much. Obviously, the decision to hire Maurice has not created a buzz or jolted the interest of the casual fan yet.
Maurice was greeted by boos again while he was being introduced, but perhaps the fans were not booing him personally. It just might be that they were booing the decision to hire him more than anything else.
Does any other team in the NHL introduce their associate head coach before every game? The Canes never introduced Kevin McCarthy when he held the position, but they are introducing Ron Francis before every game now. Are they marketing this guy to be head coach, or just begging for any applause they can get?
Rod Brind'Amour was on the ice for both Flyers goals, picked up a -2 for the game, and has an NHL worst -22. Brutal. The captain was in the faceoff circle when Carter ripped in his game-winner.
Nic Wallin left the game last night limping and is doubtful for the Washington game. Coach Maurice did not know who would be recalled from Albany, but they will need another defenseman and will send for someone as soon as possible.
Joni Pitkanen has his detractors, but the kid might be tougher than advertised. A week or so ago, he took a high, nasty hit which most thought would knock him out of action for awhile. He returned and tried to play in that very same contest and ended up not missing any time as he came right back and played the entire following game. Last night he was roughed up a couple of times, but did not back down and led both team's bluelines with his 29 minutes. Now, if he could only be a step quicker to loose pucks.
The Flyers were absolutely gangbusters last night as they had 37 hits. The Canes had 23.
Faceoffs were about even for the game, (Canes 51%, Flyers 49%), but the all important final faceoff ended up in the Hurricanes net in overtime.