After being eliminated mathematically from the playoffs on Friday night by the Winnipeg Jets, the Carolina Hurricanes lost one of the final opportunities to end the season on a positive note. The New Jersey Devils clinched their playoff spot with a 5-0 shut out win over the Canes.
The first period was Carolina’s best of the night, and they managed to hold off the Devils until the last thirty seconds. David Clarkson took advantage of a Power Play opportunity to put the first puck of the night past Brian Boucher. The first goal came after Jeff Skinner sat for interference after some retaliation against Devils D-Man Anton Volchenkov. When Skinner was released from the box after the goal, he had some choice words for the referee and received another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. (Watch the game, they even gave fans a replay of said “choice words.”) However, going into the locker room down one goal should not have been insurmountable as Skinner himself said after the game. Boucher was the bright spot of the period, stopping 16 shots.
But we all know how this story ends folks. The Devils would score three times in the second period, all even strength goals. Ilya Kovalchuk would net his one of three points of the night (1G, 2A) less than two minutes into the second (and just as Skinner was released from the penalty box). Less than two minutes later, Ryan Carter would put the Devils up 3-0 over the Canes. Petr Sykora would score the last Devils goal of the second period shortly before intermission.
There was still hope with 20 minutes of hockey left that the Canes could fight their way back. But the Hurricanes had no fight left, and Zach Parise couldn’t leave Raleigh without putting a puck in the net, just over a minute into the third. With almost a whole period of play left, the Canes could not manage to put anything past Martin Brodeur.
This was obviously not the result the Carolina Hurricanes wanted for this game, especially with only three games left after this in the season. Blame does not need to be placed here, because the players are surely doing that on their own. It’s not an excuse, but this team has been fighting their own devils in the second half of the season, trying to improve and make a run for the playoffs. This weekend was the final of five back-to-back games this month. None of us can truly know how horrible it feels to have those hopes dashed once in for all in a matter of 60 minutes. The Canes knew it was the first game in a long time where they just gave up. By their own admission they left Boucher, who was hoping to salvage some of his season after being out so long with a groin injury, out to dry.
I expect after a few days of rest, this is not the team we will see in the last games of the season, with the next in Ottawa on Tuesday. Alternate Captain Brandon Sutter said it best in his post game audio, “They’re probably the three most important games of the year. It’s important we know this isn’t where we want to be. These games are going to set the bar for where we’re going to start next season.”
Many Caniacs were drowning their sorrows in ice cream last night. What is your favorite stress relief after a loss? Chat with us about it on Facebook at CardiacCane or on Twitter:@CardiacCaneFS, @Esbee92, @peacelovepuck, @caniac176 and @CaniacCaz.