by Kate Shefte
It was a breathtaking goal for the rest of the NHL, but the chins of those seated on the Hurricanes’ bench hit the ground for an entirely different reason. Joni Pitkanen gambled his team’s win away and pinched in too far on the point with the man advantage, allowing Alexandre Burrows to spring loose after the ‘Canes coughed up the puck. Burrows moved in slow motion, the two points balancing precariously on his stick, but fans knew what was about to happen. He faked out Cam Ward and tucked the puck behind him, breaking a 3-3 tie with just over a minute left. Yet again, an epic brain fart cost the Hurricanes an assured point, if not two, on what should have been the easiest game to win out of their three-game road trip.
Let’s not put this all on poor Joni. The Canucks were a desperate team, having lost eight games in a row due to what was quickly becoming known as “The Sundin Curse.” The 'Nucks are a talented team, and you had to know that that streak would end once the Hurricanes stopped in for a visit. Vancouver struck twice early and jumped out to a two-goal lead off a screened shot by Kevin Bieksa and a highly-preventable Ryan Kesler goal, for which Cam Ward was out of position.
The Hurricanes responded in the second with two surprising rapid-fire goals. Although his team hadn’t been playing particularly well, Joe Corvo scored on the power play to bring the ‘Canes within one and the aforementioned Pitkanen added one of his own 25 seconds later. Pitkanen played chicken with Luongo, like in an old western shooting match, fidgeting with the puck on his stick and winding up for the perfect shot while Luongo got into position. Pitkanen slipped the puck five-hole and the Hurricanes were back.
Sundin continued his coming-out party with a tie-breaking goal, but a pretty Eric Staal tally in the third tied the game up again. Some questionable officiating occurred shortly afterward. Brandon Sutter appeared to have gotten the go-ahead goal and his second of the season minutes after the Staal tally, but following some Oscar-worthy acting by Luongo, Ryan Bayda was whistled for goaltender interference and the goal was overturned. One could make the argument that Bayda was pushed into the net, but once goaltender interference is called after a goal, the play cannot be reviewed (ridiculous, but that’s the rulebook.) Then, Chad LaRose was thrown into the net headfirst. He appeared to try and move out of the way, but was given a goaltender interference penalty nevertheless.
The point was gift-wrapped. Mattias Ohlund took a hooking penalty with three minutes left, and the win was within reach. But Pitkanen took a chance, and that chance blew up in his face like a cheap pool toy. Of course, it wasn’t entirely his fault, but the game was theirs. With a four-person scrum for the final two playoff spots in the East currently underway, the Hurricanes could not afford to regurgitate that assured point.
The Hurricanes will face the league-leading Sharks on Thursday, and the Sharks will almost assuredly not allow things to get that close. However, stranger things have happened. Nine to fivers might want to set their DVRs; the broadcast will start at 10:30 EST.