FSN SOUTH (TV)—When seasons turn in North Carolina, you know it. You can feel summer waning. And then there’s that week when all the leave seem suddenly to turn a different color and you know fall is here.
The Flyers scored on two of six power plays, Brian Boucher saved all but a Tuomo Ruutu rebound chance, and the Canes dropped their eighteenth straight (0-15-3) to the eastern conference leader. Carolina has not beaten Philadelphia in regulation since 2006.
This game had two storylines—special teams and the goaltending. After two scoreless periods, the Flyers broke through just 18 seconds into the third. On a power play that carried over from the second, Jeff Carter unleashed a wrist shot from the dot that had enough mustard on it to pop out of Cam Ward's glove and bounce into the net. Mike Richards ran interference for Carter as the play developed off the rush from the period's opening faceoff at center ice.
Midway through the third, Philadelphia doubled their lead on another power play, taking advantage of Carolina's young defense. Claude Giroux stickhandled at the top of the circle, drawing Brett Carson—called up from Charlotte the day before to replace Joni Pitkanen—out to defend, his stick waving back and forth to cut off passing lanes. Giroux waited for the precise moment when Carson's stick was furthest out to the side to move to puck to Danny Briere, who meanwhile had drifted to the side of the net when Jay Harrison had looked the other way to patrol the netmouth. Briere had just enough time and space to roof a shot over Ward's blocker.
Ruutu got the Canes back in it less than a minute later on a rush with Chad LaRose. LaRose barged down the wing, skating parallel to the boards with his head turned, watching Ruutu head toward the goal. It set up a 2-on-1 on that side of the ice, as Sean O'Donnell was caught in no-man's land between the Canes wingers. LaRose flicked the pass through to the net and Ruutu's second whack at it bested Boucher.
Carolina's special teams left something to be desired. Giving up two power play goals while whiffing on five man-advantages of their own is not going to cut it now that scoring is at a premium. Coach Paul Maurice hopes the power play will strengthen as injured players heal. "Pitkanen is a piece of that. So is [Jussi] Jokinen, so there’s two pieces of our five." Pitkanen's knees should allow him to return this weekend, and Jokinen is on the road trip with the team.
The Flyers, known for their intensity and malice, seemed to focus on Jeff Skinner. Two of their five penalties were for slashing the Canes' rookie. After a shift early in the third during which Philadelphia defender Braydon Coburn twice checked him to the ice, Skinner took a retaliatory charging call sticking up for himself.
With the loss, the Canes now only have one game in hand over the Atlanta Thrashers, whom they visit on Sunday afternoon.