Two nights after a lopsided 7-1 victory over Edmonton, their biggest win of the young season, the Hurricanes dropped an even more convincing 8-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. It marked the second time in a week that the Canes have given up seven or more goals one game after scoring seven of their own.
“We looked like we thought it was still the 7-1 game against Edmonton and thought it was going to be an easy game, but it wasn’t,” said Carolina captain Eric Staal. “They were on us, they were faster, quicker on pucks, got the lead and didn’t look back from there.”
Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter did most of the damage for the visitors, scoring a natural hat trick that gave him 24 points in 24 career games against Carolina. Danny Briere chipped in with 2 goals and an assist, with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell each picking up 2 points.
While Carolina goaltenders Justin Peters and Cam Ward combined to allow 8 goals on just 26 shots, none could be squarely placed on them with the exception of a misplayed puck by Peters in the third period that led to an empty-net tally for Hartnell. However, that goal made it 7-1, long after they had been hung out to dry by the skaters in front of them.
“We weren’t very good," said coach Paul Maurice. "You can’t be too happy after a game like that. It’s a very humbling experience.”
The Canes actually caught some breaks in the first period, as an apparent Hartnell goal was disallowed when replays showed he made a kicking motion with the puck and two Flyers’ shots rang off the post behind Ward. Still, Philadelphia managed to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission when the Carolina defense gave Carter too much time to corral a Chris Pronger power-play rebound that sat unattended in the crease.
“If you get out of (the period) 1-0 you’re right there, but they got two guys to the front of our net and we can’t clear the front of our net at that point,” said Maurice. “That was a big part of the story for us tonight.”
Maurice cited the team’s lack of physical play as the most disappointing element of the game for his team, which was something Tom Kostopoulos tried to rectify in the second period after the Flyers had taken a 3-0 lead just 1:54 in through Carter’s second. However, his fight with Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo did little to spark the Hurricanes, who allowed another goal by Carter on a two-on-one break just minutes later that chased Ward from the game.
“We had a lot of guys that tried to change the momentum of the game, but our start was so poor that nothing was turning that train around,” said Kostopoulos.
The Flyers’ win marked the eighth in a row against the Hurricanes and the 17th consecutive meeting in which they’ve earned a point in the standings. Carolina has not beaten Philadelphia in regulation since Dec. 19, 2006.
The Hurricanes had decent scoring chances at times, but were thwarted by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished with 35 saves, at nearly every turn. Their only breakthrough came midway through the third period on a Chad LaRose goal that made the score 6-1, but they never truly threatened to make a serious comeback.
“Anytime we thought we were getting some momentum, their goalie made some good saves for them,” said Staal. “Then it just kept coming back down our throat “
“Maybe you get one and then you put a little fear in the other team that there may be something to watch for, but we never got to that point in this game,” said Maurice.
Any positive feelings from the LaRose tally were wiped out in the next few minutes, with Hartnell and Briere scoring one apiece over the next two minutes and Nikolay Zherdev finishing on a clear breakaway with under two minutes remaining.
“It’s the first game where I think we came unglued, especially in the third period there were some awfully strange things with the puck and throwing things up the middle,” said Maurice.
The Canes now get two days to regroup before Saturday’s contest in Montreal, something they were able to do successfully following last week’s disappointing 7-4 loss at Florida, which served as a similar low point in the recent see-saw of performances. The next night, they turned in a hard-fought 3-2 win in the rematch with the Panthers.
“We definitely have to learn from it,” said Kostopoulos. “We’re a team that can’t take any nights off and we’ve got to remember that, especially against Montreal.”