Staff photo by Ethan Hyman
RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes toppled Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils in the first round and the Boston Bruins, the best team in the Eastern Conference, in the second round.
The Pittsburgh Penguins turned out to be too much. The Canes' unlikely postseason run ended Tuesday night with a 4-1 loss on their home ice.
The Penguins, the Stanley Cup runner-up in 2008, will get another shot at the NHL's top prize after sweeping the Canes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Canes' Scott Walker said he and his teammates did more than take the last two days to rest and recoup and get ready to play the Penguins in Game 4.
"It gave us a chance to look in the mirror and look at ourselves and say, 'Is this the way we want to be playing at this time of the year, in the Eastern Conference finals?'" he said. "Maybe in that sense it has given us some time to soul search or look at ourselves and say
'How do I want to be remembered?'
As the Canes took the ice today at the RBC Center for the morning skate, one had to wonder: was it the last skate of the season? Time will tell.
Scott Walker, Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole, who all missed the team practice Monday, all on the ice. All are expected to play tonight in Game 4 against the Penguins.
Walker had his head rammed into the boards in Game 3 by the Pens' Sergei Gonchar and did not return to the game. But he said today that he felt fine and was ready for Game 4.
"Yesterday was a little maintenance day," Walker said. "A little therapy but nothing that's going to keep me out at this time of the year, that's for sure. It was a tough shot, but that's playoff hockey I guess."
Saying he “signed up” to accept a lot of pressure by opting to become a goaltender, the Canes' Cam Ward shouldered his share of blame in Carolina's struggle against Pittsburgh.
“I want to be that guy. I want the guy who has to perform at a high level in the tough situation,” Ward said after a practice session Monday in the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes are a pretty fast team that can move the puck well and can outquick many opponents.
The Canes pretty much did that to the New Jersey Devils in the opening round of the playoffs. They pretty much did it again to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But the Penguins? While Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have gotten the goals and the headlines, the Canes have run into a team that's quicker overall than they are, a big reason the Pens have a 3-0 series lead.
"We did a reasonable job off the rush in Game 1 and 2 but a very poor job in our own end and not a very good job off the rush in Game 3," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today. "They've attacked us where we've been weak in each game.
Two signs were noticeable by the glass at ice level today at the RBC Center. One read "We believe." The other: "Hakkaa Paalle."
The second is Finnish and was seen by the Canes' two Finns were at practice, Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen (Tuomo Ruutu was held out). Asked about it later, Jokinen said a rough translation would be "Let's get going."
Told that one Google version was that it's an old Finnish cavalry war cry and means "Hack them down," Jokinen smiled. Yes, he agreed, that's probably a better translation.
Canes forwards Erik Cole, Tuomo Ruutu and Scott Walker were held out of practice today at the RBC Center, but Canes coach Paul Maurice said he expected all to be available for Game 4 against the Penguins.
Ruutu missed Game 2 with an ankle sprain but returned for Game 3 and had 7:49 of ice time. Walker was slammed into the boards by the Pens' Sergei Gonchar in the third period and did not return to the game.
"With (Ruutu) we see it's more of a day to day. The other two guys it's fine," Maurice said.
With the Canes trailing the Penguins 3-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, part of the focus has been on Carolina not being able to score enough goals to keep pace.
"I don't think the crux of our game has been a lack of offense or that we should be able to go out and score seven a night if everybody is playing well. I don't think that's it," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today. "We're getting enough offense in our game. We're just not defending well enough.
"With that being said, our offensive players have to defend, as well."
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman
RALEIGH — You can see the end from here.
Evgeni Malkin has the Pittsburgh Penguins poised to play for the Stanley Cup and almost single-handedly has finished off the Carolina Hurricanes' inspiring playoff run.
Malkin's two goals and assist led the Penguins to a 6-2 rout of the Canes in Game 3 and a 3-0 series stranglehold.