by Kate Shefte
Philly’s Scott Hartnell notched a hat trick to put Hurricanes fans watching from home on the ends of their seats, but the Flyers weren’t done; the Hurricanes’ young defense collapsed and allowed Scotty Upshall and Simon Gagne to tie it up and prompted the crowd to hit a new decibel, never before heard by human ears. The Hurricanes limped into overtime, confidence shattered, and made nothing of a 4-on-3 power play. Gagne scored the deciding shootout goal, and Rod Brind’Amour and Tuomo Ruutu – the only ‘Canes to have won a shootout for their team this year, against the Tampa Bay Lightning – managed weak shots on Antero Nittymaki, which were enthusiastically turned away. A three-point effort by Eric Staal went to waste and Michael Leighton quickly became the scapegoat of the game after his shootout save attempt on Gagne saw him lying on his back, well out of the crease, while the puck soared over him into an empty net.
Fans wanted a response, and to some extent, they got one…as in, the Hurricanes tightened it up defensively and didn’t blow a four-goal lead in the third. The Hurricanes rushed a few players back from the injured reserve list a bit sooner than they would have liked to before the game, shoring up the inexperienced defense and relieving Leighton of his netminder duties. Tuomo Ruutu scored early and Ray Whitney tied it up late, but “King Henrik” Lundqvist made some impressive (and lucky) saves to send it into another shootout. The Carolina coaches went with an old-school shootout lineup, sending out Matt Cullen, Sergei Samsonov, Ray Whitney, Eric Staal and Justin Williams, none of whom converted. Chris Drury sent a hard shot past Cam Ward and sent the Hurricanes reeling back to Raleigh again.
To look at it from a glass-half-full perspective, the Hurricanes managed to salvage two points against tough opponents. However, the ‘Canes are hemorrhaging valuable points in the shootout, and with scorers like Staal and Whitney on your roster, that just shouldn’t be happening. The Hurricanes either need to bring on a shootout doctor on board to heal their players’ busted moves or shake up the order a bit…Joe Corvo, anyone?