Cam Ward stopped 34 shots and was named the second star of the game, but it wasn’t enough, as the ‘Canes lost their first game of the young season, 3-1, to the Detroit Red Wings.
“We were in the game for most of it,” Ward said after the game. “We tried to keep the puck in their zone, but they play so strong defensively, it was hard to generate anything.”
The team was almost unrecognizable in their new, jet-black third jerseys, but its old habit of allowing the first goal continued. 20 seconds into a Ray Whitney penalty at 13:05 in the first period, six-time Norris Trophy winner Lidstrom buried a Pavel Datsyuk pass and made it 1-0.
During a flurry of ‘Canes activity, Red Wings backup goaltender Ty Conklin experienced déjà vu of the worst kind, in the form of a play strongly reminiscent of the one that forced him out of the starting position in game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, when he was playing for Edmonton.
After watching the Oilers’ three-goal lead disappear and No.1 goaltender Dwayne Roloson went down with a knee injury, Conklin, inactive throughout the playoffs, stepped onto the ice as cold as a frozen TV dinner package. He was stripped of the puck behind the net by Rod Brind’Amour, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Conklin was replaced by Jussi Markkanen and never returned to the finals.
Two years and two teams later, Conklin – backing up Wings star Chris Osgood – found himself in the same predicament. He anticipated the puck’s movement behind the net and went back to meet it, only to have it bounce right in front of the goal mouth. Tuomo Ruutu sent the puck just wide, and Conklin will almost certainly be revisited by those old nightmares tonight.
Carolina tied the score 57 seconds into the second period with even-strength goal from Joe Corvo – his first of the season. Corvo said he just picked a hole and fired, but that he had an unfair advantage on Conklin.
From Daily Kos:
"Linnea and I respect all that Senator McCain has done for our country. However, we feel strongly that it is Barack Obama who offers the real leadership our nation needs to tap its potential as a land of opportunity -- even as we face difficult times at home and abroad. Senator Obama is a patriotic American, a committed Christian, a good family man, and a man who shares the bedrock values that most North Carolinians have in common: fairness, hard work, respect for others, and personal responsibility."
Brandon Tate's injury in the first quarter against Notre Dame was much more serious than it initially appeared. From the UNC Sports Information office:
"An examination by UNC Sports Medicine revealed a tear to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). An MRI on Sunday night confirmed that diagnosis. Tate will miss the remainder of the season and will undergo surgery at UNC Hospitals later this week."
Tate is a senior, so this is the end of his UNC career. According to the news release, he finishes "as the NCAA’s all-time leader in combined kick return yards with 3,523 yards. At the time of his injury, Tate was leading the ACC in all-purpose yards (163.7 yds/gm)."
Thank you, Brandon, and see you in the NFL.
The first two games in the Hurricanes’ schedule – both thrilling, come-from-behind wins – have been exhilarating, albeit stressful. It shows that this year’s squad has an incredible amount of character, in that they were able to erase a 2-0 lead against Florida and then a 3-0 lead in Tampa Bay on Saturday, but the one thing that the ‘Canes have yet to prove that they can do? Win the old-fashioned way. Those wins were unbelievable (for those that stuck around…those of you that clicked over to baseball after the second period probably feel pretty silly right about now!) and…dare we say it? Strongly reminiscent of 2005-2006, when come-from-behind victories were the ‘Canes’ bread and butter. However, that will not work often, and it certainly won’t work against the teams like the one they will face tonight, the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
Off topic, can anyone believe that Eric Staal’s beautiful overtime goal (shown here at 3:34)
…was only his second regular-season OT winner in his four NHL campaigns? It’s difficult to believe that this prolific scorer hasn’t come through in the extra period, but his only other OT goal came in his rookie season – Nov 8, 2003, at home in a 3-2 win versus Los Angeles.
Staal talks about that particular goal in this humorous video, filmed at his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario with his three famous, hockey-playing brothers.
It’s strange how the mind can play tricks like that, but Staal’s clutch goals have mostly been of the game-tying variety. There was, of course, the well-referenced OT power play tally that turned the Montreal series around two years ago, but in the regular series, Staal hasn’t lit the lamp in overtime often. Perhaps that is why he was so excited after scoring against TB that he lost his balance (refer to the first video.)
The game tonight against the 2008 cup-winning Red Wings, who haven’t missed the playoffs in 18 years – the longest current streak in professional sports – will provide a challenge that will be well above that of teams like Florida and Tampa Bay. Instead of tearing through the patchwork defense of the Lightning or stripping the puck away from Florida’s depleted offense, the ‘Canes will face defensive powerhouses like Nick Lidstrom and Andreas Lilja, all while trying to harness the raw offensive power of last year’s Conn Smyth winner, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan “The Mule” Franzen. Oh, and they’ll have to try and get Tomas Holmstrom’s immovable butt out of the crease so that Cam Ward (or Leighton, if Laviolette feels like throwing a curve ball) can actually see the puck occasionally. This is going to be a while different ball game, and if the ‘Canes fall behind early again, don’t look for a miraculous comeback. The Red Wings know how to build a lead and keep it – that’s why they were collecting jewelry and checking out their reflections in the Stanley Cup this summer while the ‘Canes were couch surfing.
Alright, this'll have to be quick, mainly because I wasn't able to go to the game, and a TiVo malfunction precluded me from watching the whole thing. In fact, I think I'll supplement this summary with a Roy Williams anecdote, seeing as how basketball season is within sniffing distance.
The Tar Heels beat storied Notre Dame to continue their surprising season Saturday. OK, they didn't exactly triumph over the Notre Dame of yore, but Charlie Weis' team, after suffering through a hellish '07, was 4-1 coming into Saturday's game, and looks to be on the up. So, another win over a name team for the Heels, bringing their record to 5-1 and further cementing the impression that, in the long-term, Coach Butch Davis will make North Carolina a contender in the ACC, and in the short-term, North Carolina could be looking at some interesting bowl scenarios after the regular season.
What's most interesting about the Notre Dame game is how UNC won. Much like last week's win over (previously) undefeated UConn, a glance at the stats would lead a casual observer to believe that UNC probably lost the game. But the Heels have developed an expertise in turning opponents' mistakes into points—in this case capitalizing on turnovers by talented, precocious Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen.
So, the defense has been good at forcing mistakes (already exceeding their interception total for last season) and the offense has been able to score when it counts. This is promising, and it has to say something about defensive savvy and overall endurance. But the fact that UNC has had to scrap for almost every win (yesterday's game against Notre Dame was decided in the final seconds, as was the win against Miami), and that they tend to let opponents score between interceptions and fumbles, is troubling. They're going to have to play better to beat really good teams, but they seem to be closer to that level than they've been in years. And they've certainly improved their performance in close games over last year's 4-8 squad, which lost four games by four points or less.
The other high point for UNC in Saturday's game: QB Cam Sexton, filling in for injured starter TJ Yates, continues to get the ball to the team's best offensive assets, receivers Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster. Against Notre Dame, Sexton passed for 201 yards and ran for a 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter. Nicks had nine receptions for 141 yards. Tate, however, went out in the first quarter with an injury sustained while returning a punt. He walked off the field under his own power, but there's no word on the prognosis yet.
Next up, a trip to Charlottesville for the even-steven Cavaliers (3-3, 1-1). This is the club that Duke throttled earlier this fall. This is also the club that knocked off East Carolina yesterday, 35-20.
So, a couple weeks ago, I spent all of five minutes with UNC basketball coach Roy Williams at a UNC football game.
Well, we waited for an elevator, rode on the elevator, and walked down a hallway together. I didn't even try to talk to the guy. First of all, what's the point? But even if I'd wanted to offer thanks and praises, or ask him to lay hands on me, I would have had to find an opening, because this guy was swarmed. I felt uncomfortable just watching. Everyone wanted a piece, and Roy just smiled and took it as everyone within a 20-foot range yelled greetings and, hilariously, basketball advice.
The strangest thing was how touchy-feely people were with Roy. He was accosted on the elevator by an alum, and this guy (Carolina blue sweater vest, pressed khakis, Titleist visor) stood inches from Roy's face, talking about how he was sure he and Roy had some friends in common and wouldn't it be great to go out to dinner sometime, and by the way he had no doubt, none whatsoever, that a national championship was in store for Roy's boys this year. ... And on he went.
When the elevator door opened for his floor, he didn't just shake Roy's hand, like many of the others I'd seen (a pattern which would repeat three times during a short walk from the elevator to the box where Roy was watching the game, culminating with a guy who I'm pretty was a janitor giving Roy a hearty handshake and mini-hug).
This good old boy patted Roy's belly. Patted his belly! How is that an acceptable salutation?
Granted, as UNC coach, Roy is public property to some degree, and he also doesn't have the forbidding mien of a Nick Saban. He looks like a nice guy, often has a grin on his face. ... But how that translates into a license to pat his belly. ... Roy just took it all with a happy smile. Maybe he's been that way ever since Ty Hansbrough decided to play another year, or maybe he gulps down a handful of Xanax before facing the good burghers of Chapel Hill in public situations. All I know is that I had an almost irresistible urge to ruffle his hair and kiss him, softly, on each cheek, before we parted ways.
Former Bull and Tampa Bay Ray Fernando Perez scored the winning run against the Red Sox in a burnin-the-midnight-oil Game 2 of the AL championships. The New York Times has a lively story recapping the five-plus hour game.
Perez, who was pinch running, scored in the bottom of the 11th on a sac fly by another former Bull, BJ Upton. Perez is so fast on the bases, it prompted Rays' manager Joe Maddon to say:
"...in a straight-up race, I've got him over Seabiscuit."
Elsewhere in the NHL tonight, Sarah Palin dropped the first puck at the Philadelphia Flyers' home opener against the New York Rangers. One wonders who thought the notorious Flyers crowd would cotton to the world's most famous hockey mom, even with Piper and Willow in tow. (Note the Obama signs in the background, by the way.)
According to New York Times' Lynn Zinser on her Slapshot blog, the booing was much louder than is apparent in this video. She wrote:
[W]hen Palin came out onto the Wachovia Center ice Saturday night - greeted by resounding (almost deafening) boos from the Flyers crowd - the two hockey players who had no choice but to appear with her in that photo op were turned into props in a political campaign. If Rangers center Scott Gomez or Flyers center Mike Richards wanted to make some sort of political statement, that would be fine, but in this case, they were thrust into a situation not of their choosing.
The Rangers happen to have two native Alaskans: Gomez, seen in the video, and Brandon Dubinsky. Neither has shown any inclination to comment publicly on the Alaska governor.
Florida’s Nathan Horton brought the Cats within one, but Matt Cullen lobbed an empty-netter in from the boards and sealed the game for the Hurricanes, giving his team the payback that they badly needed. Florida single-handedly decided Carolina’s postseason fate last year, and the ‘Canes have five more games against the Panthers to do what they can in returning the favor.
The ‘Canes miraculously escaped the night without any major injuries to important players. Bryan McCabe’s status is unknown after he made an attempt at Dennis Seidenberg and hit the boards awkwardly. (Perhaps the injury bug has passed? Or, instead, it is now contagious?)
Ray Whitney was named the first star of the game after scoring his 200th point as a Hurricane, not exactly “offensive-minded” defenseman Tim Gleason tallied three assists, and Frank Kaberle showed the ‘Canes staff why they’ve kept him around this long to the tune of two assists. Zero-to-hero Dan LaCouture, the feel-good story of the early season, wound up with the game winner in his first game with Carolina.
“He worked hard to get himself back into this position, and he got an opportunity to step in,” Laviolette said of LaCouture after the game. “He does whatever you’ve asked of him, and everyone’s happy to see him score a goal.”
The ‘Canes allowed two power play goals, which was a concern, but Laviolette strayed from last year’s formula of veteran penalty killers and went with the largely untested Brandon Sutter, who played 3:37 short-handed.
“(The Penalty Kill) certainly could have been better, but it was the first game of the season,” Sutter said. “We’ll take the win.”
One of those power play goals went to Cory Stillman, a former Hurricane with a bone to pick. Stillman also assisted on Horton’s goal.
Cam Ward was sound in net, but not exceptional, allowing four goals on 33 shots. He said that he hopes to get the start tomorrow night, but there is a good chance that Caniacs will see backup goaltender Michael Leighton in his “official” No. 2 debut. Leighton had a brief stint with the Hurricanes last season while John Grahame took his place in the minors.
The Hurricanes will face 2008 Stanley Cup Winners Detroit on Monday night at home, when fans will see their gothic third jerseys up close and personal for the first time. The team will then head off on a 6-game road trip in order to get out of the way of the State Fair.
Former free agent try-out Dan LaCouture and 2007 draft pick Brandon Sutter wasted no time in impressing the Caniacs, combining for an even-strength tally three minutes into the third period. The goal was a stunner; Niclas Wallin walked in alone and fired a shot directly at Vokoun. The rebound shot off his pads and directly into the trailer LaCouture, who buried the goal in the top of the net. It was LaCouture’s first goal since the 2005-2006 season, when he played for the Boston Bruins, and Sutter’s first NHL point.
And it’s not often that the one delivering the hit is badly injured while the recipient skates away unscathed, but Panthers all-star defenseman Bryan McCabe, sent to Florida in a blockbuster trade a month ago, missed his hit on Dennis Seidenberg in the second period and injured his back. He will not return.
The announced crowd of 18, 860 nearly lost it when ‘Canes captain Rod Brind’Amour scored his first of the season, the third for the ‘Canes in this game, on a power play three and a half minutes in. Frank Kaberle, still determined to make up for his earlier gaff, notched the only assist.
Radek Dvorak ruined the party with an even-strength goal at 13:10, when Ward provided a rebound that bounced right to the Florida winger.
The ‘Canes go into the third period with a 4-3 lead. Newcomer Joni Pitkanen ripped a shot past Tomas Vokoun to close out the period scoring.
The Hurricanes defense, which wasn't a major factor in in scoring last year (Joe Corvo was the only D-man to crack the top ten, and he spent most of the season with Ottawa) is making itself known early. The 'Canes D has six points in the game so far - one goal and five assists.