The Carolina Hurricanes facing a rookie goaltender is usually not a recipe for success. But when the team fails to even get off the bus, the opposing goaltender doesn't much matter. Saturday night in Newark, the Canes started skating in quicksand and were unable to pick their game up, falling 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils.
As if they needed reminding they weren't playing a second game in two nights against the woebegone Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canes were flat from the opening faceoff. Jordan Staal took a hooking penalty three minutes in, and while the Canes killed it off the tone was set. The Canes played sloppy with the puck, and it burned them at 10:32 after a turnover when old friend Tuomo Ruutu tipped in an Adam Larsson point shot while setting a screen in front of Anton Khudobin. Ninety seconds later, Adam Henrique doubled the Devils' lead when he beat Khudobin on a breakaway after the Canes bobbled yet another puck.
Alexander Semin looked to put the Canes on the board on a power play with 2:44 to go, but video review determined that the puck bounced off Keith Kinkaid's catching glove, then off the crossbar without crossing the goal line. Predictably, the Devils took advantage, as Andy Greene snuck in off the blue line and scored his first goal in 11 months to make it 3-0.
Canes captain Eric Staal had seen enough, and after taking an uncalled high stick from Marek Zidlicky he slashed the Devils' defenseman and then both players skirmished and earned roughing penalties as the period expired, with the Hurricanes holding an 11-10 shot advantage despite being down three.
Bill Peters stood by Khudobin to begin the second period, and the Canes were able to stem the bleeding by killing Staal's slashing penalty, even getting a shot of their own while shorthanded on a tip chance by Riley Nash.
A quiet period turned dramatic with 6:00 to go. Trying to make a save on Justin Faulk, Kinkaid sprawled awkwardly and needed help to leave the ice, suffering what looked like a groin injury. The Devils were forced to turn to Cory Schneider, who expected to have the night off after defeating the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. The Canes managed five shots on Schneider the rest of the period, for a total of 11, and earned a power play late when Travis Zajac tripped Brett Bellemore with 1:31 remaining.
Having done the necessary damage in a ten-minute span of the first period, the Devils were more than happy to park the bus in front of Schneider and challenge the Canes to beat them. With the amount the Canes were bumbling the puck all night, the strategy paid off. Although the Canes were officially credited with six giveaways, they continually fumbled the puck away and passed to no one in particular the entire game.
However, with 6:00 left, the Canes finally broke through and invalidated Jamie's Twitter prophecy from last night. Jeff Skinner wound up and blasted his 14th, and his fourth in the last six games, past Schneider. The goal woke the Canes up, as they started firing shot after shot on the Devils' goal, prompting the home team to call their timeout with 3:37 to go. Peters pulled Khudobin for the extra attacker with plenty of time left, but the Devils held strong, winning their third in a row while consigning the Canes to their fourth loss in the past six games.
Next update: The Canes get two days off before facing the Flyers on Tuesday at PNC.