Shut out just once last season and feeling good about the team that remained mostly intact from a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Canes hit two posts and failed on all eight power play chances en route to a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers – the first time in the 30-year history of the franchise the team has been whitewashed it its opener.
The Canes managed just seven shots on their numerous man-advantage opportunities as the Flyers locked down Carolina’s attack after scoring two power-play goals of their own 22 seconds apart to open the second period, taking the crowd of 18,680 out of the game for the final 40 minutes.
The Canes played without top defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who remains sidelined after missing the preseason following knee surgery. He’s normally a key cog on the team’s power play and could return at Boston on Saturday night.
“I don’t think we were overly bad,” Eric Staal said. “We had our chances and they just didn’t fall. We’ve got to do a little better job of keeping it simple, throwing ugly shots at the net and crashing the net. I think we can get to the net a little bit better than we did tonight for those second opportunities and rebounds, but we’ll get better at it tomorrow.”
When the Canes did put some traffic in front of journeyman goalie Ray Emery he was more than up to the task, while Carolina also missed several open net chances after falling behind by a pair against one of the teams projected to challenge for the Eastern Conference title.
With eight new faces, including defenseman Chris Pronger, the Flyers wasted little time taking hold of the game less than a minute into the second period with Sergei Samsonov off for a high-sticking double minor. Jeff Carter poked in a lose puck that Cam Ward appeared to have smothered 25 seconds into the period, and Mike Richards added another tally 22 seconds later for a 2-0 lead.
Carolina had a chance to get back into the game with three straight power-play chances in the opening 10:56 of the second, but failed to score. Staal hit the post on one man-advantage, while Rod Brind’Amour missed an open net on another opportunity.
“It was unfortunate to give up those chances (to Philadelphia) because the first one was kind of unlucky, and we wanted our power play to respond and cash in when we had our chances and we had some looks," said Staal. "They just didn’t fall.”
Ward saw his fair share of rubber in the first period and looked sharp just two days after signing a six-year contract extension, stopping 15 shots as Philadelphia applied the pressure around the Carolina net and on several unsuccessful power plays.
It looked as if the Canes would jump on top 1-0 with 8:33 left in the first after a wild scramble in front of Emery produced a Staal shot into the back of the net from the bottom of the right circle. But the whistle had blown because of a hand pass in the slot by a sprawled Andrew Alberts, who immediately got the attention of his teammates with a crushing hit on Carter later in the period. Earlier, Dan Carcillo had taken a run from behind at Ray Whitney, producing a fight between Carcillo and Tim Gleason, who was handed a 10-minute misconduct penalty as the instigator.
“I was just trying to feed a puck out with the shaft of my stick to somebody in the slot and it caught my thumb,” Alberts said. “It was a hand pass, as simple as that. It was just a mad scramble on the ice.”
Alberts didn’t take special note of the biggest hit of the night against his former club.
“It’s just an opportunity that presented itself,” he said. “You can’t go out there looking to get hits because if you do they are going to chip it by you or go right around you and they’ll make you look foolish. It was just there and I made it happen.”
NOTES: The Canes have beaten the Flyers just twice at home since the 2001-02 season and are 0-4-1 at the RBC Center against them in the last five meetings. … Matt Cullen played in his 800th career game. … Joe Corvo played 10:35 in the first with Gleason off and a total of 30:05 for the game. … The Flyers blocked 17 shots. … Brind’Amour won 14 of 18 face-offs. … Carolina has lost six of its last seven openers, being outscored 24-14 in those games.