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Canes Exit 2009 With a Whimper: Rangers 2, Hurricanes 1

The Carolina Hurricanes lost to the New York Rangers for the second time this season, this time on their traditional New Year's Eve game, by a score of 2-1.  They lost to the Rangers by a score of 3-1, just 10 days ago at the RBC.

The key to this loss seemed to be the inability of the team to mount any consistent pressure in the New York zone.  The Canes could only register 18 official shots on goal, their lowest total of the season.   For a team that is scoring challenged and has the fewest goals in the NHL, they need to shoot more often, or at least get their shots on net.  They missed the net an amazing 16 times in this game, although three of those misses hit the post.

Give some credit to the Rangers though, who blocked 15 shots.  Marc Staal and Dan Girardi had four blocks each.  Staal had a monster game and was literally draped over big brother Eric, all game long. 

"He's a big guy and he's tough to play against," said Carolina's franchise player.  The elder Staal also admitted that he was disappointed in the offensive effort and said that the forecheck did not generate enough scoring opportunities.

The Rangers, on the other hand, more than doubled the Hurricanes shots during the first two periods and ended up with 35 for the game.

The home team seemed to come out with pretty good jump and took the lead at the 11 minute mark on a shot by Joni Pitkanen.  The goal came at the end of a 4-on-3 opportunity and it was the first goal in 25 games for the Olympics bound Finn.  (He should shoot more often).

But later in the period, Erik Christensen tied the up game during a 5-on-3 sequence as he scored his first career NHL goal of the season.

The second period was a scoreless one, although the Canes had a goal taken off the board after a review.  It was determined that Brandon Sutter made incidental contact with Henrik Lundqvist, (who was upset and banged his stick after the play) .  

After the goal reversal, Paul Maurice was the one who was upset and admitted as much when I asked him about it in the post game press conference. 

"I wasn't happy with the call because I felt that Sutter was interfered with going to the net.  I thought it was a good goal.  I was concerned that he (the ref) spent a half hour, I don't know, making vacation plans with the other coach.  And they get that call, that's what upset me about it."

Coincidentally, the Rangers also had a goal disallowed in the first period when Christensen ran over Cam Ward.  There was no reversal on that call though as they waived "no goal" immediately on the ice and awarded the forward the appropriate penalty.

In the third period, scoring chances were few and far between as each team only put six shots on goal.  Brandon Dubinsky got the game winner right at Ward's doorstep on a rebound from a Marian Gaborik shot.    The goalie said that he felt he had the puck in his stomach, but apparently dropped it and Dubinsky was there to tuck it in between his legs.  

The Hurricanes will be hoping for a better outcome when they play these same Rangers back in New York on Saturday afternoon at 1. 

Game Notes:

  • As mentioned earlier, the game total of 18 shots on goal was the low total of the season.  The previous low was 19.
  • Tim Gleason was tied with Eric Staal for a team high three shots on goal.
  • Joni Pitkanen again led the team with 29:29 of TOI.  He also had two shots on goal and three blocked shots to go along with his goal.
  • Aaron Ward led the team with five blocked shots.  He also had six hits, which tied him with the team lead with Patrick Dwyer. The team was credited with a total of 44 hits.
  • Carolina is now 3-5-0 on New Year's Eve games since the 2000-01 season.  Perhaps they need a new tradition?
  • Eric Staal earned an assist on the Pitkanen goal and now has eight points in the last three games.  Brandon Sutter's four game scoring streak was snapped.
  • Tom Kostopoulos has dropped the gloves four times this season.  He leads the team with 56 penalty minutes.  His second period battle with a taller Aaron Voros was about a draw until the Ranger took him down.
  • The official attendance of 16,947 was the second highest this season.  Opening night was a sell out crowd of 18,680.