by Kate Shefte
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH — Martin Brodeur showed that, in spite of a few playoff hiccups, he still remembers how to school Carolina. He posted shutout No. 109 Saturday night and his team connected for four goals at Cam Ward's expense.
Carolina went scoreless for the seventh time this year after being shut out once in the entirety of last season. It also dropped its third 4-0 contest of the last month. More importantly, the team is now officially out of playoff contention. Though Carolina would have lost a tie in the standings with Philadelphia, it had a chance with Boston. But Boston pulled away with a 2-1 overtime win over Toronto, putting the final nail in Carolina’s postseason coffin months after it was taken off life support when half the team was lost to injury or trade.
Carolina has a bright future with NHL-ready players like Zach Boychuk and a potential top-three pick if the team blows the remaining three games on the schedule. Boychuk said he was taking notes during New Jersey’s convincing win tonight.
“We’re a young team,” Boychuk said. “We can definitely learn from [the Devils] and use it for next year.”
Maybe it was the weather, but walking into the building, you could close your eyes and swear it was a playoff game. However, with this performance, Carolina couldn’t have won the couch potato Olympics. An early goal took the energy out of the ‘Canes and Cam Ward wasn’t as solid as he’s been in his three games since returning from injury.
Dainius Zubrus went in completely alone on a power play seven minutes into the first period and had an Old West-style gun draw with Cam Ward. Ward did his best rock wall impression but the puck found its way through his pads. The Carolina goalie looked genuinely pissed off after that one.
Patrick Elias rang one off the post five minutes later and just as the Hurricanes were admiring their good luck, he picked up his own rebound and deposited it in the net to make it 2-0.
The second period passed without anything happening worthy of blog immortality. In the third, after a wild scramble in front of Ward, Zach Parise somehow saw that his puck went into the net, even though no one the entire building could see past the pad parade.
“There were a lot of bodies in front of the net, and I couldn’t get my hand on the puck,” Ward said. “As soon as I come off the post, sure enough he banks one off me. That should never have happened.”
Boychuk had one of the best chances of the game but Brodeur, on whom Boychuk scored his first goal may moons ago — okay, a little over one moon ago, but it feels longer — leapt over to block the open net. Boychuk said the puck jumped his stick anyway.
David Clarkson finished it off with an empty-netter long after the disinterested crowd had headed for the parking lot.
“We just needed a bounce or two, especially early on. We needed someone to step up and get a goal but that didn’t happen,” Boychuk said. “That sort of summed up our year a little bit.”
Carolina plays its last home game of the season Thursday against Montreal. The game is sandwiched between road games against Tampa Bay and Boston, the former of which is now embroiled in a contest of suckage with the ‘Canes. Whoever wins will probably get the lower draft pick. Drama! Not the kind Carolina wanted, but still…should be interesting.