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Lightning 5, Canes 1

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RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes insisted this one would be different. The Tampa Bay Lightning were back at the RBC Center and the Canes were after retribution.

But for the Canes, it was not to be. The Lightning began a new season just as it ended the later, surging past the Canes 5-1.

Jeff Skinner gave the Canes a 1-0 lead after the first period and had Canes fans roaring. But the Lightning used goals from Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier  -- the second on a 5-on-3 power player — to grab the lead, and third-period goals by Steve Downie, Adam Hall and Ryan Malone finished if off.

"I liked a lot of the five-on-five game," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "I thought we had a good effort. I liked the way we came out. But penalties kill you against that team. ... We normally don't take those kind of penalties. We're a very disciplined hockey team."

The Bolts whopped the Canes 6-2 in the regular-season finale last year, keeping Carolina out of the playoffs. But the Canes had self-inflicted wounds in Friday's game, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Jussi Jokinen that led to the 5-on-3 and go-ahead goal.

After rookie defenseman Justin Faulk was called for interference at 17:31 of the second, Jokinen backhanded the puck at an official in disgust and said something to him.

The Bolts quickly converted as Lecavalier scored 19 seconds, whacking a loose puck past Cam Ward. On the 5-on-4, St. Louis was denied a goal when Bryan Allen stopped his shot at an open net.

"It's my fault," Jokinen said. "I have to keep my mouth shut. The referees do their job and I have to do my job."

Eric Staal was called for goaltender interference in the third, leading to Downie's power-play goal. The Canes, in contrast, were 0-5 on the power play.

Rolson had 32 saves while Cam Ward faced 34 shots for the Canes, who play in Washington on Saturday against the Capitals.

Skinner scored at 8:07 of the first period. But St. Louis' goal, his 35th in 63 career games against the Canes, came at 5:19 of the second and tied it 1-1.

Skinner, who had 31 goals last season when he was the NHL's rookie of the year, scored with equal parts anticipation and grit. He first corraled the puck near center ice, carried it into the zone and forced a penalty on Brett Clark as he drove to the net. Skinner got off a shot, the puck was kept alive and he banged it past Dwayne Roloson at 8:07 of the first.

The Canes appeared a bit jittery in the opening minutes and had some turnovers in their end, but quickly built up offensive momentum. Jussi Jokinen nearly made it 2-0 with eight minutes left in the first, just missing on a wraparound.

The Canes had the first penalty of the game, an interference call against Bryan Allen with 3:43 left in the first. But St. Louis was called for goaltender interference 53 seconds later and Skinner just missed on a shot after a centering pass out of the corner from Eric Staal.

The Canes outshot the Lightning 16-12 in the first. Roloson was under pressure much of the period and the Ward also had some tough saves, denying Ryan Malone six and a half minutes into the game with a sprawling stop.

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Wow. That was disappointing.

Staal 6-22 on faceoffs, 1-6 in our own end, 2-7 in their end.  That's just a liability on both ends of the ice.  And I'm not sure if he blew his assignments on 2 of Tampa's goals, or was covering for someone else, but at least twice he got there too late.  Staal's line was on the ice for 3 of Tampa's even-strength goals.

Canes only had 2 full powerplays, and I thought the second line (Jokinin, Sutter and Poni) did a pretty good job -- Poni camped out in the crease, where he belongs.  Still too many passes, but better.  And Jokinin seemed quicker than last year.  His dumb penalty obviously hurt, but I'm willing to write that off as a one-time offense since it was so out of character. The first power play line was the regular Staal, Skinner and Ruutu line, and they didn't seem as effective.

Allen did a good job of knocking people down in the crease and Pitkanen did a good job getting back on a breakaway, but I didn't see much else to like on the defensive side.

Is it wrong to hope for 3 or 4 losses to start off the season, and then a coaching change?  I've said it before that good coaches can get the most out of their players and find a way to win.   Maurice, with a lifetime record of 452 wins and 445 losses, isn't that coach.  Rutherford can do him, and us, a favor and fire him quickly so he can retire with a won-loss record over .500.

Coaching had nothing to do

Coaching had nothing to do with that drubbing last night. The Hurricanes lost because of foolish penalties, lackluster play, the absence of leadership on the ice, and a vanashing will to win. Faulk's foolish penalty was compounded by Jussi's uncharacteristic mental lapse of self control, all of which gave them a 5 on 3 score.

The Hurricanes pushed them all over thre ice in the first period. The breakdown came in periods 2 and 3 when our marquis player, Stall, did absolutely nothing to help his team and failed to win even a presentable number of faceoffs.

Afterwards it became obvious when Stall failed to check his man (who scored) the will to or hope of winning vanished. Tripp even mentioned how the heart left the team and they all but hoisted the white flag.  We were unable to attend the game, but watched it on TV, my wife falling asleep in period 2, waking up at game's end asked, "What happened,I fell asleep?"

"So did our players," I responded.

At some point we must remember that a team some $15 million under the cap cannot consistently compete with ownerships committed to fielding more competitive teams. Also, the Hurricanes, by the estimate of several in-the-know hockey minds pick us to finish 5th in our division and perhaps as low as 12th in the conference. Coaching won't change that but a few more $$$ judiciously directed toward brnging in better players will.

Still, the season is yet wet behind the ears. We can all hope!

I agree that the Canes lost

I agree that the Canes lost because of a lack of talent, heart and discipline.  

I don't agree with some of your assessment of the game.  Faulk's interference penalty really wasn't that bad.  He didn't want to give up a breakaway.  Faulk burying his head and pounding a shot into a forwards shinguards was a terrible play.  Jokinen's lack of discipline in Game 1 is distressing.  It wasn't Staal's man that beat him to the goal, but Skinner's.  Skinner didn't check him on the faceoff.  Instead he went forward hoping to break free.  I only saw the replay once, but one d-man was on the right side of the ice.  Where was the other one?  Staal didn't make up the ground, but it was the RW that scored.

I'm no big fan of Maurice, but he's not adding much IMO.  The lack of discipline reflects poorly on him.  The captain of this team deserves a lot of criticism in my book.  The Canes quit in the third period.  That's on the players and the captain in particular.  The team reflects his effort.  Maybe we were spoiled by Brind'Amour, but Staal is not captain material in my book.  Don't get me wrong, I like Staal as a player.  He's very talented and every team needs a guy like him, but he doesn't wear the C well.  Mike Modano didn't wear it well either, but he'll be in the Hall of Fame.

It's Staal with two a's not

It's Staal with two a's not two l's. Not one of his better games, sure. Should he be playing on the wing instead of center? Probably. 

Oppurtunties

I actually thought the Canes looked disjointed the first five minutes,  Played pretty well the next thirty or so and then the wheels came off.  Jokinen's penalty was a backbreaker.  Faulk is very good.  Larose, a non factor.  We had plenty of scoring chances, Roloson was good tonight.  Intensity has to maintain for 60 minutes.  Faceoffs still suck. Powerplay is still invisible.  To Me, looks like last year out of the gate.  Ward did OK.  We just laid down the last 10 minutes.  I will save this post,because I will probably be able to use it again.  Talk about critical, the next two games are just that. I believe they will determine whare Mo is in a month from now.

The Gd, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good: Skinner and Sutter. Allen and Harrison were good as well.  The bad: Jussi.  One of the tougher games he's had in a 'Canes sweater.  Now, the ugly:  Face-offs, face-offs, face-offs.  I think it's time to realize that Eric is not good in the face-off department.  By now one would think he'd be at least 50%.  He's not.  I don't think that any amount of work with Rod will fix that.  You either have it by now, or you don't.  The third goal hurt, the 4th. was the final nail.  Face-off lost at center ice 10 seconds later, goal.  I think that the lines tonight were poorly constructed.  If Dalpe is going to be counted on to score, he's as useful as a screen door in a submarine on the 4th line.  Same goes for Anthony Stewart.  Chad is hustle, desire, and heart.  Goal scorer, not.  Staal-Ponikarovsky-Dalpe in the pre-season.  First game, no.  What's the sense of playing them together in the pre-season if you're not going to pair them in a regular season game?  Same with Skinner-Ruutu-Jokinen.  Our best line for the last 20 games of last season, not together for the game.  I've had the same issue with the staff for years now.  Pick a line combination and stick with it.  You can't keep mixing and matching during the regular season.  That's what pre-season is for.  Yes, there are times when you need to shuffle the deck, injuries and the like.  Lines should be Staal-Ponikarovsky-Dalpe, Skinner-Ruutu-Jokinen, Sutter-Stewart-Tlusty, LaRose-Brent-Dwyer.  The great lines in this league are that way for a reason, they play together for pretty much the entire year.  Chemistry is acheived by playing together in games, not just practice.  Games,a nd lots of them.

Agree

I agree with most of what you say. I think you are bang on with the lines.

One area that I have a slight disagreement is giving Skinner a pass.   There was a very good reason Staal and the other forwards were late coming back on that 1st TB goal. Skinner had it driving down the ice with the other forwards also going hard. Inexplicably he decides to go east/west into two defenders at the TB blue line and turns it over. TB transitions with numbers and then it is just a cluster in front of Cam.  You have to drive north/south, dish it or dump it in that situation.  He did none of the above and it lead to a goal the other way. Lots to love about the kid, but he is still not a complete hockey player.

I'm with you on the lines. Skins and Finns had prolonged success last year.... why mess with it?  I don't see the chemistry betweeen Staal/Ruu/and Skinner. Never have.  4th line would provide a lot of energy and you can rotate those 3 with either Sutter or Tlusty on the PK without disrupting the top 2 lines when we get into a special teams game like what  happened in the 2nd period.  I'd never use Staal on the PK again. Doesn't win face-offs and not the type of guy who has the quickness to keep lane coverage and get to loose pucks.

PP needs a plan like TB. They use a big body down low and the forwards play a tight perimeter. Forces the PK to stay lower which frees up points for the time and space to shoot. We never got any shots from the point because of two things. We allowed the PK to play high and we rely too much on playmaking guys like Kabs and Joni who pass first. We need to get at least shooter back there at all times and provide the type of down low play that gives them time and space to send some bombs.  Faulk can fire it but he had no time. And either Poni or Stewart in front of the net. 

The Forward Lines

Once I saw the disjointed lines take to the ice at the RBC, I thought the Canes would lose badly.  I had been asked about it before the game, and had said, if Larose is in the top six and Dwyer in the top nine against the Bolts, the Hurricanes will get embarrassed. 

Ponikarovsky/Staal/Dalpe

Skinner/Ruutu/Jokinen

Tlusty/Sutter/Stewart

LaRose/Brent/Dwyer

  I like the team and the talent Jim Rutherford, Ron Francis, and Jason Karmanos have assembled. I do not think the present forward lines can be  successful.  On the other hand, as long as both LaRose and Dwyer are on the fourth line, almost any line combination will work fine.  I think it's obvious that Maurice is on the hot seat.  Tonight's stomping doesn't help his cause.  The fact that the power play has scored one goal from the beginning of the pre-season through tonight's game is also decreasing the likelihood Maurice will last the year. 

  I am not a "MO must Go" person; but there is no reason to retain a coach who is unable to win consistently.  Very few NHL coaches are kept if they can't make the playoffs three years in a row.  I had hoped to see the Hurricanes make a statement tonight.   It was no the kind of statement I had hoped to see.  Based on the scatterings of Mo must go, among other less kind words, tonight's game did not sit well with the crowd leaving the RBC.

the forward lines

The troubling part of your post, to me, is the last part.  I am with you on the "Mo must Go" part but my concern is if he does go, who takes over?  Do they let Dave Lewis, who has been a head coach before take over?  I don't think they'd bring Daniels up from Charlotte, but you never know. Another slow start is unacceptable.  

It's probably too early to

It's probably too early to be talking about a coaching change; but I will pass on the informal poll I've been taking among hockey friends and family.  Most are long time season ticketholders or family members who have grown up watching the Hurricanes all their lives.  Last season all wanted Maurice fired.  I did not agree.  My position was and is that Maurice should be given a fair shot this season to demonstrate he could get the Hurricanes to the  playoffs.  I think by December the team will either have gelled or not gelled.  On the other hand, if the Canes falter and have a ten game losing streak, I would guess a coaching change would be made.  I am in the vast minority of friends and family.  They want Maurice gone now.  I still think I am right; but I am getting ridiculed for my support of Maurice.

The game looked like last season

TBL clearly has better talent. Unfortunately the Canes showed many of the same problems as last season, and the game also continued the pre-season pattern of third-period fades.

If the team hasn't improved by December, I'm certain JR will make a move.. perhaps sooner if the circumstances demand it. The move could be coaching, players, or both.  

The October schedule is brutal. 8 of the 11 games are against top-tier teams, and the other 3 are on the road.

That looked a lot like

That looked a lot like preseason.  I am not optimistic.

Yecch. 

Yecch. 

Just about right

Yecch.

I thought the Canes were outplayed in the first five to six minutes of the game, then came on like gangbusters for the rest of the first period, looked competitive in the second and first half of the third.  When Tampa scored their third goal all the life and fire went out of the Canes and they folded.  I hope they can get their act together tonight. If they don't get it together soon, Mo could be gone by the middle of November because the schedule in October is brutal and they could start 0-5 and go downhill from there.

Powerplay had one good sequence on the first PP, but not so hot thereafter.  Faceoffs, we I was surprised at the second intermission stats wherein we were only down 44-56%. I thought they were much worse.  They were much worse in key faceoffs.

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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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