It seems that the frustration around the arena had been mounting and the steam was finally released after the team skated off the ice.
“Bottom line is (being) accountable,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said after the game.
“Everyone’s gotta come ready and start pullin’ their weight here.”
Muller’s comments came on the tail end of a game that began with a bizarre goal to start it all off.
As both teams battled hard early on at both ends of the ice, Hurricanes forward Pat Dwyer made a great move towards the Devils net and drew a penalty while killing off a Hurricanes penalty for cross checking to Alexander Semin.
While the play continued, the puck was still live due to the delayed penalty call, so Jordan Staal picked it up in the New Jersey corner to goaltender Martin Brodeur's left, and tried to pass it back towards the blue line around the top slot area in front of the net.
However, the puck didn’t make it to defenseman Tim Gleason’s stick and continued across the ice, bounced off the boards at center ice, and slid all the way into an empty Carolina net, which goalkeeper Dan Ellis had left in order to add an extra skater on the delayed extra-man opportunity.
The final result was a power play goal for New Jersey which was credited to Brodeur who was the last player to touch the puck after making the save on Dwyer’s play.
Early effort disappears
Even though the Devils took the early 1-0 lead with 16:06 to play in the period, the Hurricanes managed to outshoot their opponent 11-4 while remaining scoreless heading into the first intermission.
The same effort however, didn’t exist for the remainder of the game as the team’s leading scorers – Eric Staal, Semin, Jiri Tlusty, and Jordan Staal - managed to only take a combined three shots on goal that provided any challenge for Brodeur while missing on 10 shots that sailed over and around the net, and nowhere close to it.
“We’ve gotta’ find a way to be better, including myself,” Jordan Staal said.
“It’s playoff hockey and we’ve just gotta’ get the drive back in our game and find a way to win games.”
The exception to the group was Jeff Skinner, who cranked six shots on net and was the only one on the entire team who was able to beat Brodeur with a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle along the boards that dipped and beat the future Hall of Famer with 8:33 remaining in the third period.
By the time that Skinner had scored, Carolina was trailing 3-0 after a second period of play in which they were outworked, outshot, and outscored by New Jersey.
“You’re not going to win many games when you get three shots in a period,” Skinner said.
“Overall, I think we need a little bit more here. A little bit more everywhere. A little bit more battle. A little bit more compete level. I think once you get that work level up, the execution will come.”
Cut in the net
As odd as the game had started with the Devils’ goaltender scoring a goal, it ended with a bizarre injury to the Hurricanes’ netminder that occurred with less than a minute to go.
While Brodeur turned away 17 Hurricanes shots and finished his first game back for New Jersey with a win after sitting out for a month due to injury, Ellis made 18 stops for Carolina and had to leave the game with 51 seconds due to a mysterious cut to his hand or leg, or both.
Apparently the Hurricanes goalie had reached down to fix something at the top of his left pad during a stoppage in play and came up with blood on his hand.
Discovering that, he left the ice surface immediately to tend to the injury with backup Justin Peters stepping in to finish the remaining portion of the game.
When asked about the injury afterwards, Muller indicated that he had not gotten a clear answer on what the source and extent of the injury was.
It seemed that he was too busy thinking about how poorly the rest of the team had played overall.
Bottom line is accountability
Muller’s comments rang loud and clear on the tone that was set in the dressing room following the team’s poor showing.
“I am not so much concerned about scoring,” Muller stated.
“It is more about how we play. I am disappointed tonight. It’s time we don’t piggy-back off of some of the guys that have been playing well all year. We need more effort from some guys. This was a big game and we played well in the first, but got outworked in the second. They took over and that’s not going to work. We’re all about accountability and some guys need to look in the mirror and get their game goin’ and get their work boots on because that is what it is going to take.”