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Late Penalty Dooms Carolina: Leafs 3, Canes 2

Good teams find a way to win.  Bad teams find a way to lose, and that is exactly what the Carolina Hurricanes did as they dropped their 11th game in a row, this time by a score of 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night at the RBC. 

The Canes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period then watched as the Leafs tied things up in the second, a period which has been a thorn in the side of the club all season long.  The Hurricanes have now allowed 22 goals during the second period this season, more than any other period.   

With the evenly matched teams tied at two, they battled back and forth in the third period until Rod Brind'Amour was called for holding behind the Leaf's net.  Then the usually reliable Carolina penalty kill allowed an opening and Jason Blake buried his opportunity, giving Toronto a 3-2 lead and the eventual win.

After that key goal the Canes would try and try but could not put the biscuit in the basket, regardless how open the net seemed.  They poured 18 shots on goal in the third period and at times had Jonas Gustavsson faked down and out, but they could not lift the puck over the sprawled goalie.

"The Monster" did have a very good game though and certainly outplayed his counterpart, Cam Ward, at the other end of the rink.

The loss solidified Carolina's spot in last place in the NHL, at least until they can muster a couple of wins.  But most fans are probably wondering exactly when that will happen.

Brandon Sutter scored again for Carolina, his third goal in the last four games.  He's proving that it was a huge mistake sending him to Albany after training camp as he is now one of the leading goal scorers on the team.  Sergei Samsonov scored the other goal, on a rebound opportunity.

The Leafs opened the second period on a mission as they held the puck in the Carolina zone for over a minute just like they were on a powerplay, until scoring their first goal of the game just 1:12 into the period.  About six minutes later they scored again, this time on a rush as Nikolai Kulemin beat the Canes defense to the front of the net.

The Canes had a bit more jump in the third period, but again the Brind'Amour penalty turned out to be the key play of the game.  After the game Paul Maurice stated that he was not happy about the call.  There were only three penalties called in the entire game up to that point, but the penalty was called, the winning goal was scored, and the home fans went home disappointed once again.

After the game, lockers were being slammed and things were being thrown around the Carolina dressing room.  But most players disappeared very quickly once the press entered the room.    

Zach Boychuk and Brandon Sutter stayed behind and answered a few questions.

I asked Boychuk how he felt he performed in the game and asked him to describe the play where he intercepted a pass and broke into the clear for a breakaway.  He said that he felt like he had a pretty good game overall and had several good scoring chances.  The puck was bouncing on him a bit during his breakaway, but the goalie made a good stop on him as he got his shot off as best he could. 

You can listen to that interview here: Zach Boychuk interview

Sutter said that the team is very frustrated.  The video of his interview is at the bottom of the page.  Both youngsters got decent ice time,  (Sutter 17:29, Boychuk 15:11), so the coaching staff got the memo from the front office. 

Zach Boychuk showcased his skills pretty well.  He gives the team a lot of quickness and possible game changing speed as he showed on his breakaway as he out-skated two Leaf players who were initially even with him.  The youngster led the team with five shots on goal.  He is also not afraid to get into the dirty areas on the ice, despite his relatively small size.

The Canes will try to forget about the last 11 games and put themselves into the victory column with a win in Columbus on Saturday night.

Game Notes:

  • Carolina went 35:37 without a penalty, the second longest span of the season for them.  They were called for two minors, but the one in the third was the killer.
  • The Canes were 0-3 with the man advantage, including just 23 seconds of a partial powerplay at the end of the game.  They are now 0-25 in the last five games.
  • The team has now given up two consecutive goals for the 15th time in 15 games this season.
  • Their faceoff percentage was much better as they won 60% of draws.  Brind'Amour won 100%, (7-7) and Sutter was at 64%, (7-11). 
  • Erik Cole led the team with five hits.  The Canes out-hit the Leafs 29-19. 
  • Cole and Cullen kept trying to set up Boychuk for his first NHL goal, but it was not meant to be this time around.

When will the pain end?  One thing is certain, it will not be easy for the team to dig it's way out of this hole.