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Hurricanes Fight Back but Lose to Flyers in Shootout, 4-3

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The Carolina Hurricanes fell behind 3-0, but then tied the score during an eight minute frenzy late in the third period before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout Saturday night at the RBC, 4-3.  The Canes trailed 2-0 in the opening period, played a scoreless second period, then were losing 3-0 midway through the third before they finally found a way to solve Michael Leighton and the stingy Philadelphia defense.

The home team almost dented the scoresheet first when Joni Pitkanen found favorite target, Jussi Jokinen breaking in on a rush toward the end of a powerplay.  Jokinen's shot beat Michael Leighton, but Flyers' defenseman Matt Carle saved the goal when he swept the puck away while it was rolling toward the goal line. 

Just 30 seconds later, Mike Richards got loose in the Carolina zone and beat Cam Ward to put the visitors up, 1-0.  The goal deflated the team in red and the Flyers took full advantage. 

Just four minutes later, Jeff Carter broke in alone from the blueline and roofed one by Ward from about 30 feet.

The second period went back and forth as neither team really took charge.  But in the third period, Philadelphia took advantage of a powerplay opportunity.  Danny Briere made the score 3-0 and it looked like the Canes' hopes were over.  

During the course of the game, coach Paul Maurice had been changing up the lines a bit, looking for anything that might work.   While he was juggling lines, he finally found a trio that made great music together.  Once  Eric Staal, Jussi Jokinen, and Matt Cullen were matched up, they started to dominate the game.  

Just 24 seconds after the Briere goal, the new new line crashed the net and with plenty of bodies in the crease, Jokinen backhanded a puck that bounced off someone and ended up in the goal.  It was the type of ugly score which can ignite a team, and that is exactly what happened with Carolina.

With about five minutes left, the Canes were awarded a powerplay chance themselves and Pitkanen once again found a player breaking into the open, but this time it was Brandon Sutter.  The youngster made no mistake and he wristed a shot past Leighton to make the score 3-2 while giving the 16,822 faithful something to yell about.

Less than a minute later, the new line connected again as Staal found Jokinen on the other side of the net.  "Mr. Clutch" tipped the puck in for his second goal of the night and with the score tied, the home team had good reason to think they might complete a miracle comeback finish. 

But it was not meant to be as the Canes would squander a powerplay chance with one minute left in the game which carried over to the overtime period as well.  After the penalty was killed the Flyers controlled the extra period, but Cam Ward made a variety of nice saves to keep his team in it.

When the shootout was over, it turned out to be another loss for the home team and a well-deserved victory for the Flyers and Michael Leighton.  The ex-Hurricanes goalie did not make many of the highlight reel type of saves that Cam Ward made, but he scrambled and made key saves when he needed to. He looked very strong in the shootout and earned the extra point for his team.

Next up for Carolina will be a trip to Washington for a game on Monday night.

Game Notes:

  • Cam Ward did not stop a single shootout attempt as he finished 0-2.  Mike Richards and Danny Briere both scored for the Flyers.  Michael Leighton made a very nice glove save on Tuomo Ruutu as the Finn faked and then tried a backhander.  Jussi Jokinen hit the post on his attempt.
  • If you are a statistic buff, you had to like Leighton's chances once the game went to the shootout.  Ward has a lifetime losing record and is 1-3 so far this season.  He has allowed 7 goals on 13 attempts for a 46% save ratio, one of the lowest in the league.  While Leighton has not had many chances, he has looked strong when he has had the opportunity and has yet to allow a single goal in two shootouts this season.  His record is now 2-0, (one win for the Canes and one for the Flyers), and he has stopped 5 shots on 5 chances for a 100% save ratio.
  • The Canes out-shot the Flyers 40-38 and had a total of 20 shots in the third period alone.  Ruutu had eight and Cullen had seven to lead the way. 
  • The home team won 46% of faceoffs.
  • The Flyers's defense not only covered for Leighton very well, negating the ill affect of several juicy rebounds which were available, but they also blocked 22 shots compared to just 6 for Carolina.  Matt Carle not only saved a goal but had five blocked shots.  The Flyers were also playing short a man and rotated just five defensemen the whole game.
  • Joni Pitkanen, who mentioned that he doesn't like to go over 30 minutes, played a season high 33:46 in this affair.  Of course, he did accumulate a couple of extra minutes because of the overtime.  Kimmo Timonen played 30:11 and Chris Pronger played 32:46 for the Flyers, but again they rotated just five players.
  • Rod Brind`Amour was -1 in just 6:45 of playing time giving him a total of -21 for the season.  Stephane Yelle, Patrick Dwyer, and Scott Walker were also -1 while Brett Carson was -2.
  • Brandon Sutter now has points in three straight games which leads the team.
  • The Carolina powerplay finished 1-5 and remains at 29th in the league.  The inability to score with about one minute of a 4 on 3 advantage opening the overtime period killed the team's chances.  Not only didn't they score, they did not even get an official shot on goal during the sequence.  That's almost inexcusable when playing against a backup goalie like Leighton, who was most likely very shaken after allowing three straight goals in the third.  Somehow, the team needs to get pucks on net in that situation.