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Devils 4, Canes 1

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RALEIGH -- Kirk Muller was mad. At least, as mad as Muller will show publicly.

After the Canes' 4-1 loss Thursday the New Jersey Devils, Muller had some strong comments about his team.

"I'm not so much concerned about scoring as how we play. I'm disappointed tonight," Muller said. "It's time we don't piggyback off some of the guys who have been playing well all year. We need more effort from some guys. ...

"I think it's unfair for some guys who are pushing every night. I think it's slowly catching up to us. We're not going to accept it. Everyone has to come ready to start pulling their weight here.

"This is adversity for us. Now let's see how we handle it."

Martin Brodeur was back in goal for the Devils. He also had the first goal for the Devils, which says a lot about how the game went for the Devils and the Canes.

The Canes are a team that seems to be losing games and losing its way. They now are winless in their past five games.

Brodeur, making his first start since Feb. 21, was credited with a power-play goal for the Devils (14-11-6) in the first period after the Canes' Jordan Staal banked a pass off the boards, down the ice and into an empty Carolina net. The unusual score came on a delayed penalty against the Devils, as Canes goalie Dan Ellis had vacated the net.

Adam Henrique and Peter Harrold scored for the Devils in the second period as New Jersey took a 3-0 lead, and Andrei Loktionov had a late goal in the third.

The Canes got a power-play goal from Jeff Skinner in the third to trim the lead to 3-1 but Carolina couldn't mount a comeback. Skinner scored his 10th of the season and first in six games on a knuckling shot from the right wing that Brodeur couldn't track.

Ellis left the game in the final minute and was bleeding. Muller had not update on Ellis' injury, or the one to defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, after the game.

Brodeur, 40, had been out for 24 days because of back pain and numbness in his left arm. After weathering a busy first period -- the Canes had 11 shots -- he settled in and was hardly tested in earning career victory No. 665.

The Hurricanes (15-13-2) had forward Tuomo Ruutu in the lineup for the first time this season. Ruutu, who underwent hip surgery in December, was used mostly on the fourth line but did get in four hits in his 14:20 of ice time.

The Canes came out with jump to start the game, only to have Brodeur's power-play goal give the Devils a 1-0 lead about four minutes into the first.

After the Canes' Alex Semin was called for cross-checking at 3:33, the Devils had the the game's first power play. But the Canes' Pat Dwyer then a shorthanded chance, drawing a hooking penalty on Marek Zidlicky as he drove the net. Brodeur knocked the puck into the right corner, where it was played by Jordan Staal.

Staal's pass from the Canes' offensive zone bounced off the side boards and perfectly angled into a net vacated by Dan Ellis for an own goal.

Brodeur was credited with the goal as the last Devils player to touch the puck. It was his second career regular-season goal and he became the first NHL goalie to score a power-play goal since Evgeni Nabokov in 2002 according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Devils then surged to a 3-0 lead in the second on goals by Adam Henrique and Peter Harrold as the Canes offense stalled. Both goals came on hard work in front of Ellis.

Brodeur's goal was a stunner -- both for the Canes and the PNC Arena crowd.

The Canes scored a similar goal on Dec. 26, 2011, last season against the Devils at PNC Arena. Cam Ward was credited with an empty net goal when Ilya Kovalchuk sent a pass sailing the length of the ice and into the New Jersey net when the Devils pulled the goalie for an extra attacker.

The Canes outshot the Devils 11-4 in the first. After the Brodeur goal, the Canes fired shot after shot at Brodeur in a torrid sequence but could not score.

The Devils shut down the Canes in the second period, limiting them to three shots. The Canes could not maneuver through the neutral zone and could not maintain possession long enough in the offensive zone to put any heat on Brodeur.

Defenseman Brett Bellemore, recalled Wednesday from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, made his NHL debut for the Hurricanes and may be needed. Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti left in the third period with an upper-body injury.

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Transforming Into a Muller Team

I was glad Muller was explicit in his disappointment. The last five games have been disappointing. Last night was painful to watch. I think the issue is that some of the players are simply not Muller players. They have fine NHL players in skills; but they lack the warrior's heart and desire to play a physical game with energy.

I am not at all surprised the Hurricanes hit a wall of sorts. They continue to lack at least one more physical, skilled forward who thrives on the battles in the dirty ice. They continue to lack at least one behemoth defenseman who brings the right kind of nastiness to the crease. I've been very disappointed in McBain's game for much of this season. He is being pushed around in front of the net and it is costing the Hurricanes goals. Jokinen has been a non-factor in far too many games. He's been excellent for the Hurricanes, but he is not a Muller player by temperament.

I completely disagree, although respectfully, with those people criticizing Skinner. He and Jordan Staal are handcuffed by having nobody on their line how can take pressure away from them offensively. Teams are ignoring Jokinen and Dwyer because neither than really hurt them offensively. I felt it was a mistake at the time when Dalpe was sent down. I am convinced now it was a mistake that has cost the Hurricanes two to four points in the standings. Ruutu's return will work wonders for the second line; but with Tlusty hitting a slump, the E.Staal/J.Staal/Semin lineup does have a strong appeal to me.

I would like to see Dalpe called up as soon as he is healthy again. I would be interested in seeing Skinner/Ruutu/Dalpe and then moving Tlusty to the third line. Until teams fear the second line for its offensive prowess, the Hurricanes are going to struggle. Until the Hurricanes add another physical forward in the Ruutu mode, the Hurricanes are going to be hammered both in the playoff stretch and if they make the playoffs in the playoffs. Until the Hurricanes add a crease clearing thumper on defense, the goalies are going to be surrounded by big bodies in front of the net.

Feel Comfortable Commenting?

AD:
As usual, you present a compelling position of thoughts w/o really skewering anyone though you did single out McBain. I suspect your "disappointment" really translates into "Lackluster" in a rather kind assessment.

Would you be good enough to go public with your thoughts on Gleason and Pitkanen? I would not purposely place you in a compromising position and unless you are comfortable addessing the question pls do not respond.

I am more than disappoinmted in the latter two and McBain and fail to see either as really strong at their positions. This is my team and I want to see results and good performance in everyone. So what, if anything, am I missing when I watch Tim and Joni play? I really wish these guys well, but quite frankly I'd move them out in a heartbeat.

The Hurricanes are not a smash-mouth in-the-trenches knock- 'em-down type of team and I agree until we add such player mentality I'm concerned about making the playoffs.

More Needs Chaging Than Shifts...

The PNC Arena last night looked more like Madame Taussaud's Wax Museun than an NHL ice rink with a bunch of seemingly lifeless statues standing around and dressed in hockey uniforms.

Pity we had nothing to cheer about because a loud noise might have awakened some of those forms that seemed to me motionless.

We seem to have an excuse de jour for losing.

The Hurricanes have more talent now than ever before, but appear to have no D. Stop this absurd love affair with some players that should be moved out for whatever we can get for them. Just my opinion, but I do not believe we have a true shut down D man or play maker back there who can pass effectively. We do seem to own the East Coast distributorship for that feckless maneuver of dump and chase.

A bunch of rookies from Tampa Bay beat us, a beat up team from New York, ditto, etc. etc. etc. Losing is one thing, but a line of embarrassing losses, should be addressed. One more of these and we can rename the Hurricanes The Drums...a team every team beats...

I do believe there is potential greatness in this team (provided we do somehow get 2 strong D men) and trade off some of management's favorites.

Still, I'm hooked. I'll be there next game ad infinitum. So, Go Canes...but in another direction!

Coach Muller needs to take charge

This whole bunch has lost all fire, passion and ability to play a team game. I'm a Muller fan BUT his statement after the Tuesday debacle that, 'they need to work it out' (sic) is a receipe for failure. They need not to be a 'self-coached team' with 20 coaches who can't get their own games together much less the team game.

If Muller, McLean, Lewis, Brind'Amour, et. al. can't figure out what's wrong and correct it they're in deep doo!

Frankly, Muller & crew need to decide on a plan of action and hold practices of 2, 3, 4 hours on non-game days, show them what's wrong and teach what they need to do to correct it. Forty minute practices ain't gonna correct ANYTHING!!!

If he goes with giving them Sat & Sun off, it's an indication that coaching attitude and expectations (not coaching ability) are another major problem that isn't going to correct itself and leans toward another sorry season.

All that talent being wasted. SIGH!

Disagree

Muller is right. If this team is going to have any type of long term success the leadership and effort has to be self motivated. Long grueling practices may work in the short term, but will not work in the long term. These guys know what's wrong. They also know what to do to correct it, but they aren't doing it. Since going up 2-0 on Washington this team has mailed it in. Effort has been fair to poor and the results show it.

The disturbing thing is that this isn't anything new. This bunch has been effort challenged for several years. Three coaches, same stuff. I don't know what's wrong in that locker room, but the evidence points more and more at player leadership, or lack thereof.

Closed Door

Closed door post game sessions are not for holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Word has it that Muller questioned effort, heart and work ethic in very graphic terms.
When he was a captain and leader for years he never called out individuals in the media. That style is not going to change as a coach and what he says after games is media "coachspeak". He is not Tortarella... not his style. But I can recall when he had some pretty intense closed door session as captain of Montreal.

I have no doubt that the next four days will be day one of breaking down the malaise that has hit this team and some very pointed team and individual conversations. A five game slump in a short season could be a disaster but fortunately we still right in the midst of the playoff spot battle.He has already said that some players would not be with this team in the future if their approach to the game did not change. Then some intense practices and then build them back for what will be a critical stretch where we play the Peg twice.

I have a lot of faith in Muller. More than I have with some of the players. This will be HIS team for the future and one way or another he will reshape it. He didn't get the nickname Captain Kirk for nothing. If they don't come out of the gate hard after this break look for some major changes before the trade deadline.

Ah yes, S'27

You pegged it well and I really was stating what I thought at midnight last (pissed and tired). And the last I heard was the Admiral's presser and knowing he's "polite" in public and good with coachspeak. The other last thing was saying he was going to give them Sun & Mon off but That may have been from before the game and heard later.

A friend was at practice and his characterization of a bag skate was right on. And not just to punish but to get their attentions and impart some hard lessons...

And to CA below, et. al. Yeah, motivation is a door locked from the inside - I have a little experience teaching management skills. The coach has two main functions: preparation (planning, training, practice...) and inspiration by which he can greatly influence said motivation. You're very right, they know what to do and how to do it - they all know HOW to play this game at the highest levels and they know how to correct their crappy play. And sometimes they must be reminded that they know it and understand the consequences... Part of coaches preparation and inspiration is to get all of 'em doing it together. I really had faith that Kirk would "inspire" 'em - just had a moments lapse.

Struggling

It has now become a full on struggle for this team. Something fundamentally is missing and doesn't seem to be in any hurry to come back any time soon.
Jeff is probably struggling the most. He appears to be a bit gun shy and you really can't blame him. 2 concussions in 2 years will do that to you. Everything is to the outside, where he would go into the "dirty" areas before. Again, that probably due to the concussions.
Fortunately, the Rangers and Jets did this team a huge favor in losing tonight and this coming Tuesday nights game is beyond season defining.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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