The Hurricanes got off to a slow start in Vancouver last night and fell behind the Canucks, 2-0 in the opening period. To the team's credit they battled back to tie the game twice, only to lose during a powerplay opportunity with a minute and change left in the game.
Goalie Cam Ward took the blame for the loss and had this to say in an interview on CH.com.
"I thought our team played pretty well, and I didn't help them by any means," said Ward, who made 20 saves in his 17th straight start. "That was a game I was fighting the puck it seemed like all night on the simplest shots. We made a mistake there on the power play at the end but that's an opportunity for me to step up and make a save because I didn't make a save all game for us. It stings because obviously we really need the points."
The 'Nucks started the scoring just about two minutes into the game on a powerplay goal by Kevin Bieksa. Rod Brind'Amour was in the box on a tripping call. Ward probably shouldn't be blamed for that goal as he was screened by two players.
Later in the period, Vancouver struck again on a nice shot by Ryan Kesler, who had too much time and space.
Carolina finally graced the scoreboard on a powerplay blast by Joe Corvo at the 11 minute mark of the second period. Just 25 seconds later, Joni Pitkanen was able to sneak a puck through Luongo's "5 hole" and the score was tied.
The Canucks took the lead again a bit later in the period as Mats Sundin scored on a wrap around chance. That is a goal that Ward would certainly love to have back. It's the second wrap around goal the netminder has allowed recently as Toronto's Jason Blake scored in a similar fashion a couple of weeks ago.
The Canes opened the third period with the man advantage and scored due to some beautiful tic-tac-toe passing. Eric Staal was the beneficiary and seized the moment by rifling the puck past Luongo, once again tying the score.
Carolina seemed to have some jump at this point and they were able to get another puck past Luongo on a nice deflection by Brandon Sutter off of a Bryan Rodney shot, but the goal was waived off and Ryan Bayda was called for goaltender interference.
A bit later in the period, the Canes were nailed again with another goaltender interference call when Chad LaRose was obviously pushed into Luongo. Although after they killed that penalty, they were given a chance to win the affair as the 'Nucks were called for hooking at the 17 minute mark.
Instead of playing for the safe point on the road of a non-conference game, the visitors pushed hard to win it. Anton Babchuk pinched in near the goal line and none of the forwards covered for him. The puck was heading out of the zone and Joni Pitkanen went to try to keep it in, but it got past him. Alex Burrows was there to scoop up the loose puck and had a breakaway attempt. The speedster made no mistake as he faked out Ward and backhanded the puck past him. The goal came with a minute and change left and was a real back-breaker.
In retrospect, the Hurricanes should have played it safe there and not forced the issue. They should have played to get the one point, and then tried to pick up another one in OT. That single point could prove to be an all important one as Florida jumped past the Canes again last night, taking over the 8th spot in the East.
Things don't get any easier as Carolina plays San Jose next, the top team in the West.
Carolina's faceoff percentage was atrocious as even Brind'Amour had trouble. The captain won 3 of 14 for 21%. Overall, the team won 17 of 59 for 29%.
The boys only had two official hits in the first period, but picked up the intensity later. Tuomo Ruutu (4), once again led the team and one wonders where the consistent physicality from the forwards would come from without him.
Tim Gleason had a team high four blocked shots and was stung by one in the third period. (He did return to the game).
Eric Staal had 6 shots on goal, tops for both squads.
Carolina has not won in Vancouver since 1999. The streak continues.
Florida scored with less than a minute left to tie Toronto, (Cory Stillman), and Bryan McCabe scored the game winner in OT. That must have been a special moment for the ex-Leaf. The Panthers still have two games in hand and have one more point, (56) than Carolina (55).