Hurricanes Notebook: Cardiac 'Canes come up short
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The Carolina Hurricanes have made a habit this postseason of coming back hard, earning the nickname Cardiac 'Canes, but it didn't work out that way for them last night.
They twice cut two-goal Penguins leads in half but their final stab -- a shot by center Eric Staal from just to the left of the net with 25.7 seconds left in regulation that went into the body of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury -- wasn't quite enough.
For the third time in as many series these playoffs, the Hurricanes dropped the first game, 3-2 this time.
"We've just got to keep getting pucks to the net," said center Chad LaRose, who along with defenseman Joe Corvo scored for Carolina. "It will be just one game we have to get past."
They did that successfully against New Jersey and Boston, winning those matchups in seven games. Carolina scored two goals in the final 1:20 of Game 7 to oust the Devils and won in overtime in Game 7 against Boston.
"That was a completely different style of game than the last 14 we played," coach Paul Maurice said of this opener, elaborating the three interference penalties called against his team were calls that, he believes, weren't called in his team's first two rounds.
Hurricanes winger Tuomo Ruutu favored his right leg as he went to the bench in a Carolina power play almost midway through the first period, shortly before the Penguins opened the scoring. He played just 2:40 that period and did not return.
"He's an impact player for us," LaRose said of Ruutu, who had four points coming into the game. "I think he's OK. I think he just went off to be cautious."
At 7:52 of the third period, winger Erik Cole lay on the ice and was helped back to the bench favoring his left leg after a collision with Penguins winger Matt Cooke.
Asked if he thought it was a knee-on-knee hit, Maurice said, "Yes, I felt that it was."
In the second round, Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar missed two games after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Washington star winger Alex Ovechkin -- an injury that is still limiting Gonchar to an unknown extent.
"We don't know much right now," Maurice said of the injuries. "We'll see [today] on both of them."
The Hurricanes insist they have no inferiority complex, even though they understand that they are the team other cities wanted to face in the playoffs because Carolina has been considered beatable.
"We're not counted on to win this series, I assume, but we know in our room that we've got confidence," Staal said. "I've got confidence in our team. I know our coaching staff does. I know our management does.
"We have that ability in our room to respond and to be ready to play. ... We're going to have to prove it to everybody this series that we can compete and move on."
Winger Scott Walker heard the sentiment in each round, including this one, when there was at least some public opinion that facing the Hurricanes was a relief compared with top-seeded Boston, which was ousted by Carolina.
"Down deep, everybody knows that there's really no upsets in the NHL when you play seven games against a team," Walker said. "If you played a one-game series, luck plays a role in it. A seven-game series, I think the better team wins.
"I don't think we're motivated by saying everybody picks us to lose or wants to play us. We're just coming out to play our game every game."
First Published May 19, 2009 12:32 am