For the third straight round this postseason, the 'Canes dropped Game 1, falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals.
They'll get a chance to even things, as they did in the previous two rounds, in Game 2 on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS). In their opening-round series against the New Jersey Devils, Carolina rebounded from a 4-1 loss with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 2. Against the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals, goalie Cam Ward stopped 36 shots to lead the 'Canes to a 3-0 victory.
"We obviously wanted to get this first one and it didn't happen, but I thought our game was there -- it was better than the last two Game 1s we played," Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "The effort was good but we had a couple of breakdowns and I feel we'll be able to clear those up for the next game."
Seidenberg pointed to a few mental letdowns, in particular, that led to a pair of Pittsburgh goals in the first period.
"On their first goal, we have to pay better attention to the clock and know when their guy (Miroslav Satan) will be coming out of the box (after serving a penalty)," Seidenberg said. "And on the second goal, we didn't do a good job of getting the puck down into their end all the way and had two (defensemen) caught. I would expect us to make the proper adjustments for Game 2, as we have in the past."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, whose team held a 31-25 shot advantage, knows the Hurricanes will present an even greater challenge in Game 2. And that concerns him.
"The will and the tenacity of their team and work ethic is relentless," Bylsma said. "You saw them track back and lift up sticks a couple of times tonight along the wall. They battle extremely hard and keep pucks alive; they keep pucks in. They did a great job and, at times, were able to dictate the game."
Carolina wing Chad LaRose, whose goal pulled the Hurricanes within 2-1 midway through the second period, expects a better effort Thursday.
"We got a lot of belief in this locker room," LaRose said. "This was our best Game 1 of the playoffs but we just need to get past it and move on to Thursday."
Despite the loss, Carolina coach Paul Maurice was encouraged by his team's effort, particularly against Sidney Crosby, who was limited to two shots on 23 shifts. On the flip side, the Hurricanes were whistled for three interference penalties, giving the Pens precious minutes on the power play. Plus, a delay of game call resulted in Philippe Boucher's game-winning goal in the third period.
"That was a completely different style of game than any of the last 14 we played (in the playoffs) and we did some good things, but we know we can play a little bit better," Maurice said. "I think in the first two Game 1s, we forced ourselves into a lot of mistakes. I thought we did a pretty good job (on Monday) being patient and disciplined. I don't think we handled the puck as well as I'd like to. I thought there were just some pucks that came out to our forwards that we didn't handle and we were slow-moving from our back end. We also must clear up those interference penalties."
Hurricanes center Eric Staal, who led all forwards in the game with 22:42 of ice time, is confident his team will make the necessary adjustments for Thursday.
"We wanted to win (Game 1), obviously, but it didn't happen so we'll need to improve a little more in some areas," he said. "I felt we competed and had chances and (Marc-Andre) Fleury had to make some big saves. We just have to be better and we have to tighten up in our end and grind it out in the next game. We'll get our share of offense and, maybe, get some breaks along the way."