by Kate Shefte
Back in the good ol’ days, an overtime loss was occasionally even more crushing than a loss in regulation. However, for a team that’s desperate for points, tonight’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Flyers was a definitive step in the right direction.
The Hurricanes have gone seven games without scoring more than two goals in regulation. As of tonight’s game, despite remaining numerically in the top eight in the Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes have scored the sixth fewest goals in the league.
However, the whole being-unable-to-score-goals thing actually worked out for the team tonight, as one goal was all it needed to force overtime. Sergei Samsonov scored on the power play to tie the game up in the third and the Hurricanes walked away with a point after Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter scored in overtime.
Flyers captain Mike Richards scored the first goal of the game four minutes in (the twelfth time in a row that the Hurricanes have given up the first goal, but who’s counting?) off a breakaway on a Hurricane power play. It was Richards’ fourth individual shorthanded goal of the season and third in four games; the ‘Canes have yet to score one.
With six minutes left in the period, the Flyers were practically sitting on each others’ laps in the penalty box, but the Hurricanes still couldn’t convert. Philadelphia’s Riley Cote, Luca Sbisa, and Scotty Upshall were all in the box for various infractions, giving the Hurricanes an extended 4-on-3. The ‘Canes couldn’t generate a shot, leading part of the crowd to trade the “Let’s go Hurri-Canes!” cheer for “No More Power Plays!”
Regardless, Joe Corvo looked great on the power play, working tirelessly to keep the puck in several times. He also made a play that almost assuredly saved the game, tying up his man on a 2-on-1 with a little over a minute left in the game. Joni Pitkanen looked enthused as well, perhaps energized by the prospect of scoring on the team that drafted him six years ago. He finished with nearly 30 minutes in ice time and an assist, although he was on the ice for both goals against. Head coach Paul Maurice said Pitkanen “got better as the night went on.”
“I think we’re moving the puck a little bit more, but more so I think we’re moving a little more,” Corvo said. “I think we were getting a little stagnant, just standing around and trying to pass, but we moved a little better tonight.”
If there was any justice in the world, the Hurricanes would have scored on the sequence that transpired right after a Michael Leighton’s delay of game penalty ended. The ‘Canes looked more organized than they had in weeks, putting the Flyers on their heels and giving the appearance of a team in control instead of a team in flux and barely treading water. If they can replicate and sustain the play of those two minutes tomorrow, their scoring woes will be a thing of the past.
Sergei Samsonov shattered Carolina’s goose egg on the power play 55 seconds into the third period. A lucky bounce glanced off a Flyer’s skate and across the ice to Ray Whitney. A lesser “Wizard” might have hurried and gotten the shot off, especially with the ‘Canes’ recent confidence issues. However, Whitney glanced over momentarily and saw Sergei Samsonov streaking toward the net, and saucered a beautiful pass to him. Samsonov sent it high for his third of the season. He has experienced some success against the Flyers so far this season; his last goal came against them a week ago, when he scored in overtime to give the ‘Canes their only win in seven games.
“Tonight was a little something we can build on,” Whitney said. “Getting two power play goals in two games might help with our confidence issues.”
Williams came close to getting his first goal in his second game of the season shortly after Samsonov scored off two shots from close in. He was thwarted by a sliding Antero Nittymaki.
The game went into overtime, which was a small victory in and of itself. The ‘Canes had some good chances, but Carter scored off a faceoff at a fluky angle to abruptly end the Hurricanes’ comeback hopes.
Joni Pitkanen, Anton Babchuk and Joe Corvo were the only NHL regulars (if you can call Babchuk a “regular”, as he has played less than two full seasons in the NHL) that finished the game for Carolina on defense once Niclas Wallin went off in the third. Maurice said he is “not optimistic” that Wallin will be able to play tomorrow, so someone will need to be called up on emergency basis to join fellow River Rats Tim Conboy and Casey Borer.
Maurice said he will not decide who is called up, admitting that he hardly knows the players in the locker room, much less those on the farm team.
“I’m still shaking hands and introducing myself to the guys getting off the airplane (from Albany),” Maurice said.
The Hurricanes will face off against the Southeast-leading – but injury-riddled – Washington Capitals 18 hours from now at the RBC Center. The Hurricanes have allowed eight goals in their first two games against Washington this season.
“Especially given the health of our team, it would better if the games were a little more spaced out,” Maurice said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a tough game, but looking down the road, I think this will be a benefit.”