On the night in which the franchise retired its second number -- No. 2 for Glen Wesley – Wesley's former team stole the show late as the Boston Bruins scored three goals over the final 3:48 to break open a one-goal game en route to a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.
The four-goal loss followed home defeats of 5-0 and 5-1 last week, leaving the Hurricanes just one-game over .500 at home this season as the remaining games begin the disappear from the schedule for a team still searching for answers and consistency into mid February.
“You can’t play like this at home and expect to make the playoffs,” said Whitney, the team’s leading scorer. “We obviously have to change something.
“If you want to talk about changing the lines, I think that’s making excuses,” added Whitney. “We just haven’t played very well at home and it’s embarrassing, it’s frustrating to have your fans boo you when you leave the ice -- not that it’s not warranted -- but it’s certainly frustrating and a little bit humiliating.”
Carolina’s special teams were off again on this night, without much offense generated on five power plays, including a back-breaking short-handed goal allowed that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Boston added a power-play goal a minute later and then an empty-netter to seal the deal.
The Bruins, the best closing team in hockey, have now outscored opponents 70-36 in the final period.
Cam Ward, with three shutouts in the last 11 games, couldn’t hold off the Bruins hard charge in a dominating second period, allowing a screen shot from the point from defenseman Shane Hnidy for a 2-1 lead. However, the Carolina goalie was sharp after the go-ahead goal, stopping Phil Kessel on two great scoring chances, including a breakaway midway through the period to keep the Canes within striking distance heading into the third.
However, the second Boston goal seemed to deflate the Canes, who never recovered against the first team in the NHL to post 40 wins this season.
“I didn’t think we had the same kind of jam in the second half of that game, they got better and we didn’t,” said coach Paul Maurice.
“Our game after that goal certainly dropped,” added Whitney. “We didn’t have that determination to get in front of their net as much as we should have. And then we give up breakaways. We certainly haven’t finished off games at home very well lately.”
Or against the Bruins this season. After going 3-0-1 against Boston last year, the Canes were swept in four this season, being outscored 18-6.
“They’re a good team, you can’t take anything away from them,” Whitney said. “They’ve disciplined and they’ve got a lot of depth up front and they’ve got one of the best defenseman in the league in (Zdeno) Chara, who plays 30 minutes a night and shuts down your top guy. They are legitimate.”
Each team hit the post on Carolina’s first power play five minutes into the game before the Canes struck first. Whitney raced up the left wing before flipping a back-handed pass to Matt Cullen in the slot for his 15th of the season.
Eric Staal’s slashing penalty late in the first resulted in the game-tying goal for Boston just 35 seconds after the All-Star center paraded to the box. The Bruins had scored just two power-play goals over a nine-game span before Blake Wheeler’s 17th.
Just when you think Carolina has turned the corner, considering a 3-0 road win at Buffalo over the weekend, the club took a step backwards at home in a season of extreme ups and downs.
“The difference is the Buffalo Sabres aren’t the Boston Bruins,” Maurice said.
“We’re just not scoring enough,” added captain Rod Brind’Amour. “It doesn’t matter if we give up 100, if we score just one a game it’s just not enough. We’ve got to find out how to get more without giving up quality chances.”
NOTES: Maurice said defenseman Niclas Wallin will likely to have surgery to repair his nose after taking a stick there with 16:23 left. The Canes were already without Tim Gleason, while Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen were also dinged up in this one but returned. … Carolina’s players wore a Wesley 2 on the front right shoulder of their sweaters to honor the former defenseman who had his jersey retired. … Cullen has five goals in his last nine games. … Whitney moved within 17 of 500 career assists. … Brind’Amour won 15 of 20 faceoffs.