The Canes fell to a season-worst 12 games under .500 with a 3-2 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals on Monday night, and in the process lost defenseman Joe Corvo with what appears to be a severe laceration to his lower right leg.
Corvo was rushed to a local hospital and was stable by the time the game ended. But the concern of coach Paul Maurice’s face told the story of a defenseman who logs an average of 26 minutes a game and will likely be lost for a significant amount of time.
“The extent of the injury we won’t know until the doctor gets in there and looks at it and finds out how deep it is and what it caught, but he was in some pain on the ice,” Maurice said. When asked if he felt the Corvo injury was significant, the coach said, “Yeah, I do. If it’s not significant they just sew you up and put you back on the ice.”
“It’s never good when you see a lot of blood on the ice,” added Matt Cullen. “Yeah, another tough loss -- and they’re adding up.”
It was the second major cut suffered by a key Carolina player (goalie Cam Ward the other) in a month to forget as the Canes fell to 3-10-2 in November and 23 points behind the Caps. Carolina was outscored 55-35 in the month and recorded just eight points.
Cullen extended his point streak to four straight games with a goal with 15.6 seconds left with Michael Leighton pulled for an extra attacker, but it was too late for the Canes to make a comeback, falling to 5-17-5 overall.
“Hopefully we can take this week and regroup and figure out a way to start fresh and hopefully make a push,” added Cullen, noting that the Canes don’t play again until Saturday.
Washington defeated the Canes without Alexander Semin, who didn’t make the trip because of injury, and Alex Ovechkin, who received a game misconduct in the first period for his knee-to-knee hit on Tim Gleason. But the Caps got a three-point night from its third star, Nicklas Backstrom, and super goaltending from back-up Jose Theodore, who stopped 38 of 40 shots.
“We’ve seen some good goaltending,” Maurice said. “Some nights you say, ‘Well, we made that guy look good.’ But the last few nights we’ve seen some pretty fine saves.”
With that being said, the Canes must start finding a way to hit the back of the net on a more consistent basis. The club has scored two goals or less in 19 of 27 games en route to a fifth straight loss.
“We’ve been going a lot harder to the net in the last 10 games, we’ve done the offensive drive the way we want to and it looks like our offensive game again, but clearly we’ve got guys fighting to just get a handle on some of those pucks around the net,” Maurice said. “That can only get solved by pucks going in. We keep telling everybody to keep working, but we’ve been saying that now for 10 games. But the puck has to go in the net, it just has to or those guys won’t stop feeling it, they’ll always be squeezing it and missing nets and breaking sticks. We just haven’t scored enough goals to build that good confidence that we need.”
The Canes were carrying the play for most of the second, but couldn’t hold off a lapse over the final minutes of the period. Leighton was caught out of position on Backstrom’s second goal of the game to give the Caps a 3-1 lead, then the Canes took consecutive penalties that gave Washington a 5-on-3 power play for 54 seconds.
“I was coming across thinking their player was going to shoot it and he did a little Spin-O-Rama and when I went to get back into the net I lost my edge and he put it into an open net,” Leighton said. “It’s obviously not a goal you want to give up. If they are going to score you want to make them earn it. That was a pretty easy goal for them.”
Carolina blasted 16 shots on Theodore and had a five-minute power play when Ovechkin was penalized on the Gleason hit, but still managed to trail 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Canes struck first on the power play when Corvo pounded home a rebound on Carolina’s 10th shot just 4:35 in. However, 34 seconds later Corvo was injured in a freak accident in front of the benches as he was cut on the leg by the skate of Karl Alzner as the two players tangled.
A minute later, Washington tied the score and then took the lead just 15 seconds after the Canes wasted an extended power-play opportunity when Ovechkin went off late in the period for his major penalty. Joni Pitkanen was caught up ice, resulting in a 2-on-1 breakout for the Caps, who scored two goals on just six shots against Leighton in the first.
“We’ve got to persevere and it’s not always easy,” Cullen said. “Hopefully we can write an unbelievable story at the end of the season. Nobody in here is giving up. We’ve got time left.”
NOTES: Scott Walker missed his eighth straight game with an upper body injury. … Gleason appeared seriously hurt in the collision with Ovechkin, but returned near the end of the five-minute power play. … The Canes fell to 1-9-3 when trailing after two periods. … Carolina had 13 four-on-four goals last year, but none so far this season after 27 games. … With Corvo out, Pitkanen’s ice time rose to a season-high 33:28. … Rod Brind’Amour has now gone 22 straight games without a goal. … Eric Staal had a game-high nine shots.