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Carolina Collapse Continues: Sharks 5, Canes 1

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The Carolina Hurricanes dropped yet another hockey game, their ninth straight game without a win, to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon by a score of 5-1.   Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu both made returns to the ice, Ruutu after his three game suspension, Cole after missing 10 games because of a broken bone in his leg, but their additions were not enough to push this snake-bitten team into the win column.

As a matter of fact, the team has not even been in a close game since the 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota on October 24th.  The Canes have lost by a combined score of 16-4 over the last three games.  What's wrong?  It seems like just about everything.

Coach Paul Maurice said after the game that everyone needs to step up.  The goaltending, the offense, the defense.

The first period looked pretty good and ended in a scoreless tie although there were definitely some communication problems on defense for the Hurricanes.  

Joni Pitkanen held the puck behind the Hurricanes goal for several seconds as he and Aaron Ward tried to work out what to do next.  At one point Pitkanen started pointing to Ward, then fired the puck with frustration along the boards, where it was picked off by a Shark.  Luckily for the Canes the play was called offsides, but the two defensemen were still talking about the play at the bench afterward.

Is it at all surprising that some players on this team are not on the same page?

The second period started on a positive note for the home team.  Brandon Sutter broke out with a two on one advantage and ended up ahead of the pack.  He put a nice move on Evgeni Nabokov and scored, giving the Canes a lead. 

But what has been become quite typical for the Hurricanes, it was a very short-lived lead.  One minute and 17 seconds later, Kent Huskins would tie the score on a wrap around goal which Cam Ward would love to have back.  It was the first goal of the season for Huskins.  

Just one minute and 22 seconds after that, Brad Staubitz would score his second goal of the year and any slight confidence the Canes might have had up to that point, disappeared.

The Sharks would score yet another goal before the end of the period, making the score 3-1. 

The third period started with the Hurricanes putting pressure on in the San Jose end.  They had a couple of close calls as Erik Cole set up a prime chance for Ray Whitney.  But the puck bounced out to the Sharks and they would come down to the other end and score easily.  Just that quickly it was 4-1 and for all intents and purposes, the contest was over.

Carolina would be called for three straight penalties later in the period and Patrick Marleau would score a powerplay tally during one of the sequences to complete the disappointment for the remaining home fans. 

Game Notes:

  • The Jokinen Pitkanen/Ward confusion in the opening minutes was symbolic of the team's problems at this time.  A simple thing like breaking out the puck turned into a fiasco and almost a goal against.  And it was not the only time a defensive pairing had similar trouble in this contest.  The chemistry on this team sometimes seems nonexistent.
  • For the second game in a row, Brandon Sutter scored the only goal for the Hurricanes.  Would they have been shut out twice if not for the youngster's efforts?  Sutter is making more than one statement with his play.  First, he's making a case for his permanent stay in the NHL.  Second, he's making it look like a huge mistake to have such a veteran laden team instead of going with more youth.  More about that later.
  • At one time the Hurricanes were winning just 10% of faceoffs, but ended up at 41%.  After the game I asked Sutter about the challenge of switching back and forth from winger to center and he said for the most part it was not a problem, but taking faceoffs was tough.  The youngster was 0-8 in the circle for this game.
  • Eric Staal did not return to the game to start the third period because of an undisclosed upper body injury.  John Forslund said afterward that it was a lingering injury the team wanted to be careful with.  Staal had been fighting a lower body injury earlier in the season.  He has not really looked like himself yet this year.
  • For some reason, the second period seems to be a major challenge for Carolina.  They have allowed more goals in the second period, (20),  than in any other.  San Jose racked up three more in this affair.
  • The team could only muster five shots on goal in the second period, tied for their lowest in any period this season.
  • The Hurricanes have allowed three unanswered goals in 6 of 13 games this year.  They have lost each of those games.  

Later on this week, the Canes will be taking on the other bottom feeders in the conference.  Wednesday night's contest will be in Florida and Friday night they will face Toronto at the RBC.  Will they finish out the week at the bottom of the league?  If Toronto wins this week, they will not have to wait until Friday for that dubious honor.

Someone recorded the "issue" between Joni Pitkanen and Aaron Ward. Simply bizarre.