NHL Playoffs: Carolina fans to pump up volume for Game 3

RALEIGH, N.C. -- People sometimes compare the decibel level in a sports venue to things found in other real-life settings.

Standing near a jet engine running at full throttle, perhaps.

Or being close to a speaker at a rock concert.

No one says that about hockey games at the RBC Center, where the Penguins will take on Carolina at 7:38 p.m. today in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final.

For when the Hurricanes' home crowd gets going, it's more like being near a speaker at a rock concert where there also happens to be a jet engine operating at full throttle.

"I think it's probably the loudest I've played in," said Penguins forward Craig Adams, who played on the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2006.

That's saying something, although not as impressive as the assessment offered by 38-year-old winger Bill Guerin, who has been in a few rather raucous facilities since breaking into the NHL during the 1991-92 season.

Asked where the RBC Center fits on that list, Guerin said, "It's way up there. It's top five, for sure. That place is nuts. It really is."

It's not that Guerin hasn't been in even crazier settings. It's just that there haven't been many.

"Edmonton in the playoffs," he said. "Nothing beats that. Well, maybe Chicago Stadium. There was nothing like that."

The Penguins are sure to be reminded of just how loud it can get at the RBC Center tonight. Carolina is counting on its home-ice advantage -- in which crowd support is a major ingredient -- to get back into the series, which the Penguins lead, 2-0.

"A lot of times, I've seen everyone stand up for the third period, things like that," center Sidney Crosby said. "They get a lot of energy from playing at home."

This, however, will not be the Penguins' first foray into a loud arena this spring. Remember, they made three visits to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia -- where the hatred for them is almost palpable -- in Round 1 and four to the Verizon Center in Washington in the second round.

The RBC Center likely gets a bit louder than either of those, although the fans aren't nearly as hostile as the ones the Penguins encountered in the previous two rounds.

In Philadelphia, there generally are a dozen or so vulgar chants -- often prompted, or at least accompanied, by the arena organ grinder -- directed at Crosby anytime the Penguins drop by, and Washington fans don't seem to carpool to games on the Welcome Wagon, either.

But, while there undoubtedly are isolated incidents of incivility at the RBC Center, the most unsavory organized chant heard at most games is a brief "Cheaters Never Win" whenever a visiting player is penalized, and that hardly qualifies as overt hostility.

"When you're in Philly, you get the feeling like they're really angry," Adams said. "In Raleigh, they're just good people and really supportive of their team. They're not so much out to get the other team."

Adams might be a bit biased -- remember, he earned a ring here -- but his teammates seem to feel pretty much the same.

"It's not as nasty," forward Max Talbot said. "It's cleaner. People are cheering for their team. They're not dissing the other one."

The game-day experience isn't limited to what happens inside the arena. Tailgating is an integral part of the package for many Hurricanes fans at this time of year and plays a part in setting the mood during games.

"The fans are pretty enthusiastic, and they get a little extra fuel from the tailgating," Adams said.

One thing the crowd won't have to provide this evening is a sense of desperation. The math isn't very complicated, and the Hurricanes surely realize a Penguins victory in Game 3 would mean the series is all but officially over.

It has been 34 years since a team rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven -- the New York Islanders did it to the Penguins in 1975 -- and the only other time it happened in NHL history was 33 years before that.

"There will be no quit in them," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We need to understand that and be ready for it."

Earplugs might be a good start.


Scouting report

Matchup: Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:38 p.m. today, RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

Internet: Live game blog at Empty Netters

TV, radio: Versus; WXDX-FM (105.9).

TV, radio: Versus, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Series: Penguins lead, 2-0.

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Cam Ward for Hurricanes.

Penguins: Are 6-1 since Game 3 of second round. ... Are 6-3 in playoffs when scoring first. ... Had string of games with at least one power-play goal halted at 7 in Game 2.

Hurricanes: Are 1-4 since Game 5 of second round. ... Are 3-4 in three-goal games. ... Have killed 15 of 16 opponent power plays at home.

Hidden stat: Both teams are 3-1 in overtime.

Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published May 23, 2009 4:00 AM


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