Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/11/09 at 07:09 PM ET
On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes closed the regular season with a 3-2 loss to the Devils, who just might end up being the first round matchup. Since Carolina lost and Philadelphia won, the Canes will finish in either fifth or sixth place. If the Penguins get at least one point tonight, the Canes will get the sixth spot and will play the Devils. If the Penguins lose in overtime, the Canes will face the Flyers.
In what I considered to be a surprise move, Paul Maurice decided to start Michael Leighton in nets tonight. He was victimized by two fluky goals, then made a bad decision that resulted in the game-winning goal for the Devils.
The playoffs will start either on Wednesday or Thursday, and either way, the Canes will be on the road.
David Clarkson scored first for the Devils at 2:52 of the first. Leighton left his goal to chase down a shot that had gone wide of the net, but the puck took a hard and crazy carom off the end wall, going right to Clarkson who was alone in front of the empty net. In my opinion, Leighton shouldn’t have bothered leaving the net in the first place, but this is one of those things that happens.
Anton Babchuk tied it for the Canes at 6:34 with a power play blast from the top of the right circle. It was his 15th goal of the season, assisted by Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney.
At 11:57, Zach Parise scored his 45th goal of the season on another crazy bounce. Again, a shot sailed to the right of the net. Again, Leighton wandered out to go get the bounce. This time, the puck struck a stanchion and bounced out to Parise, who was all alone in front of an empty net. Given what happened earlier, there was really no reason for Leighton to have done what he did. But it was chalked up as “just one of those things”. I bought the excuse of “You can’t do anything about that” the first time, but not so much the second time. More on this in a bit.
The second period went scoreless, and Michael Leighton actually looked great. At the very least, he didn’t have any more fluky goals into an abandoned net.
Babchuk scored his second goal of the game and his 16th of the season at 4:42 during another power play. All day long, the power play was looking pretty good, and they continued to let Babchuk load the gun. Just seconds before the goal, he tried a couple from the top of the left circle, and he finally got another one through from the high slot. Whitney and Brind’Amour assisted.
And then there was another poor decision by Leighton and the Devils took advantage of it. As if he didn’t learn from the other two goals, Leighton wandered out of the net to fetch a puck behind the net when there was a defenseman in the neighborhood who could have handled it. He should have let Tim Gleason take care of the puck, settle things down, then clear the zone. Instead, he went after it, then scrambled to get back in nets. He was in the net this time, but he wasn’t in good position at all when Dainus Zubrus beat him at 15:34.
Both of Carolina’s goals came on the power play, while all three of New Jersey’s came at even strength.
And now, Carolina will wait for their fate to be determined.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.