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Although the Hurricanes only managed one goal in their last game, a 3-1 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, they were generally happy with their ability to generate scoring chances.
Not making them count ended up being the problem.
The Canes put up 41 shots on Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who has been struggling against any team not named the Hurricanes lately. Only one, a power play effort by Cory Stillman midway through the final period with his team already down 3-0, ended up on the scoreboard.
Still, the Hurricanes aren’t standing in awe of Biron’s performance so much as acknowledging that they need to be better at executing their opportunities.
“I do think for the most part that there were a lot of quality chances, and we just didn’t make good on them,” said coach Peter Laviolette.
“It’s one of those games where it seems worse than it really was,” said captain Rod Brind’Amour. “We looked at the scoring chances today and we out-chanced them by quite a large margin, but at the end of the day it’s all about winning and getting that puck to go in, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Scoring isn’t something the Hurricanes have had many problems with this year, as they are tied with Detroit for the NHL’s best offense with 81 goals.
"We’ll put in more than that,” said Laviolette of his team’s lone goal against Philadelphia. “I don’t think it’s a fluke that we put in the goals we did since the year started. I think all teams go through it. I do think we’ll score goals.”
Carolina came out of the gates just fine on Wednesday, out-shooting the Flyers 17-10 in a rare goal- and penalty-free first period, the Canes’ first since January of 2004. It wasn’t until Derian Hatcher, a normally low-scoring defenseman who somehow has four points in his last three games against Carolina, put one in on his fourth rebound attempt that the tide really seemed to turn in Philadelphia’s favor.
Stillman, who leads the Canes in scoring, said that frustrations may have gotten the better of his team after Hatcher’s goal, which came after they had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Biron with nothing to show for it.
”You know what, when you go back and look at the second period, we had an opportunity on the first or second shift, and that would have given us the one,” he said. “We’ve got to build off that instead of letting things go down and say ‘Oh jeez, he’s playing well.’
”We’ve got to say that was a great chance, and if we get another one we’re going to score," he added. "Then they came down and scored on a whack-and-hack goal, and you could see a bit of a drop. We’ve got to learn from those mistakes and not do it again.”
Against a Flyers team that is now 10-1-1 when scoring first, not getting that first goal turned out to be the difference. In order to be successful against Washington on Friday night, Stillman said striking first will be crucial.
“I’d say it’s a different game [when scoring first],” he said. “It’s been proven. We’re looking Friday night to come out and score first and score often, and I think if we can get the first goal and control the play from there on we’ll have better success.”
It will be the fourth meeting of the season between Carolina and Washington, with the Capitals currently leading the season series 2-1-0. None of the games have been all that close, with the home team dictating the play each time.
After losing the since-replaced coach Glen Hanlon’s last five games in charge and posting a 1-8-1 record in his last ten, the Capitals are now 2-1-1 under new coach Bruce Boudreau. That includes the 5-2 win against the Canes last Saturday night.Two of the Capitals’ key players picked up injuries in their shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday night, as captain Chris Clark and Russian winger Alexander Semin both left the game early. Clark’s injury isn’t thought to be too bad, but Semin is continuing to have problems with a sprained ankle that has caused him to miss all but eight games thus far.