The Canes wasted a 34-save night from Cam Ward and an opportunity for an above .500 month after a horrible start to the season, giving up a goal to Brandon Dubinsky with 8:11 left en route to a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on New Year’s Eve.
Dubinsky also scored the game-winner 10 days ago in Raleigh as the Canes finished December 5-6-2 and remain far out of the playoff chase heading into 2010.
Carolina fell to 1-8-2 this season when tied after two periods as the third hasn’t been kind to the Canes.
Ward was pulled with 1:14 left for an extra attacker, but the offense couldn’t register a shot on Henrik Lundqvist, who looked shaky at times after being pulled in a 6-0 loss to Philadelphia 24 hours ago.
“We still can shoot the puck more,” said coach Paul Maurice, who watched his club register a season-low 18 shots. “That’s the one thing that we’re disappointed with. After their six-goal night we talked about it and yet we started looking for passes all over and they just weren’t giving anything up through the middle part of the ice. They’ve got some size on the bottom half of their team and they clogged it up pretty good.”
It was certainly a game of inches for the Canes on this night, hitting four posts, including one by Eric Staal with 10:46 left – 2 1-2 minutes before the Dubinsky goal – and one by Patrick Dwyer with 5:58 remaining.
“Sometimes you get those bounces and sometimes you don’t,” Staal said.
And for a team that doesn’t score that often, it was a hard fall after playing so well at Washington in a 6-3 win Monday night.
“This is disappointing because we had great puck pursuit in Washington and we really attacked them well, but we didn’t have that jump tonight for whatever reason,” Ward said.
“We’ve got to do a better job of being on the attack,” added Staal. “I don’t think we generated enough on our forecheck, getting pucks behind their defense. We’ve got to start shooting pucks from everywhere because that’s what starts our game. We didn’t get to it as much as we should of and it resulted in us playing too much defensive zone coverage.”
It appeared the Canes had dodged a New York scoring bid to take the lead when Erik Christensen missed a wide open net on a backhander, but Ward was forced out of his net while three Carolina players chased scoring ace Marian Gaborik toward the corner. Gaborik then flipped the puck in front to Dubinsky, who stuffed the puck home.
“They missed the net and that kind of threw everybody off,” Ward said. “We got scrambling and he shot the puck right back at me and I thought I had it in my stomach, but it was apparently right between my legs and he just batted it in.”
Carolina’s bid to take the lead midway through the second on a Brandon Sutter goal was reviewed and disallowed after referee Dan O’Halloran ruled that Sutter made contact with Lundqvist as the puck was on its way into the net.
The Canes then had to kill off 59 seconds of a 5-on-3 New York power play late in the period, catching a break against the NHL’s eighth-best man-advantage unit when Gaborik hit the post to the right of Ward.
Ray Whitney and Joni Pitkanen hit the post within 20 seconds of each other on Carolina’s first power play midway through the first period, with Pitkanen’s shot bouncing off iron and then Lundqvist into the net.
Carolina’s first goal came just 1:15 after a New York goal was disallowed when Christensen was called for goaltender interference when he knocked over Ward in the crease.
However, Christensen got a bit of redemption near the end of the first on a two-man advantage, scoring on a rebound as Scott Walker was off for high-sticking and Rod Brind’Amour for hooking.
With the Rangers still on the power play, Tim Gleason saved a goal with a quick diving stick save as the puck had trickled between the pads of Ward, hit off the post and was sitting inches from the goal line for a streaking Sean Avery.
NOTES: Carolina fell to 1-20-3 when scoring less than three goals this year. … Erik Cole and Chad LaRose have now missed 10 straight games each with injuries. … Pitkanen’s goal was his first in 25 games and just the 13th this season by the defense, which netted 45 goals in 2008-09. … Staal’s assist on the first Carolina goal gave him 22 points in his last 17 games. … Whitney leads the Canes with 11 power-play points. … The crowd of 16,947 was the second largest of the season after 21 home games. … Aaron Ward had five of Carolina’s 17 blocked shots.