The Carolina Hurricanes scored the game's first goal and had the loud support of their home fans behind them, two factors that have usually meant success, but the team could not stop the onslaught of the Pittsburgh Penguins last night in Raleigh as the Pens put the Canes on the brink of elimination, 6-2.
Once again members of the team and the coach do not seem to have any answers on how to beat the powerhouse Penguins. When Eric Staal was asked if the team had to play a perfect game to defeat the Pens, he shook his head no. "We just need to play better".
Erik Cole said the same thing when asked what the Canes needed to do in order to beat the Pens. His reply, "We need to play better."
Obviously, that's easier said than done. The Canes have been saying that for three games now, but have been dominated as Pittsburgh has been seemingly scoring at will at times and has scored 16 goals against the Canes in the first three games of the series.
The Hurricanes started the game with a lot of jump and nearly scored on a few close chances. About four minutes into it, Matt Cullen received a nice pass from Patrick Eaves and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Canes the lead. But Eaves would be called for slashing a couple of minutes later, and the momentum shifted to the visitors.
Tim Gleason had the puck and tried to scoop it out of the zone, but he ended up giving it right to Evgeni Malkin, and the Russian wonder-kid took the puck by Gleason like he was not even there and scored easily.
The teams went back and forth throughout the period, with the Pens carrying the play most of the time until the final minute of the period. With just 43 seconds left, Bill Guerin fed Sidney Crosby a superb saucer pass, and with perfect hand-eye coordination, the superstar buried it. Crosby beat Joni Pitkanen to the net on the play as Ward had no chance going post to post.
Then with 12 clicks left, Malkin would strike again as he just waltzed in on Ward, untouched. He did the exact same thing in game two, with just 6 seconds left in a period.
That made two goals in the final 43 seconds for the Pens. It's puzzling why the Canes continue to allow late scores.
The Penguins carried the play once again in the second period, but Cam Ward literally stood on his head to keep his team in it, making 16 saves on 16 shots.
About two minutes into the third, Sergei Samsonov would knock in a rebound on a nice reflex play to give the fans some hope. But Pittsburgh scored three more times later in the period to put the game away.
When asked after the game about the insurmountable odds his team now has to face to win the series, Paul Maurice replied as if he was not thinking about the series. "We have to find a way to beat them once." The coach and his staff will have an extra day to try to figure it out as game 4 will be played Tuesday night at the RBC.
The Canes do not have an answer for Evgeni Malkin. Tim Gleason will be seeing the Russian in his sleep. "Geno" has owned Gleason all series.
The Canes were outshot once more, (40-34) as it seemed like Cam Ward was under siege most of the night. (Look at the picture above and ask yourself, where is the defense?) Ward is reportedly playing hurt, but there is no word on the details. The visitors had a 31-16 shot advantage after just two periods.
The Pens had 22 blocked shots compared to 14 for the Canes.
Carolina seems to have no luck at all as every rolling puck or close chance goes just wide. Pittsburgh even scored once as a face-off was sent back into the Hurricanes open net.
The Canes look tired and some people are speculating that it's because of the two, seven game series they had to battle through. That could be part of it, but the team has basically been playing playoff hockey for three months. They were under extreme pressure to make the playoffs and started their push in early March. While both Staal and Jokinen said that they were not tired, the team could be mentally fatigued by now.
At least they have two days to attempt to regroup.
Post game interviews-
Jussi Jokinen says that the team will not quit.
Eric Staal- "We did not get this far for no reason."
Paul Maurice- "You don't want to be chasing that team."