"The only problem was he wasn't feeling his best," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said of Ward, who allowed six goals against 41 shots in a 7-4 loss Thursday night at Mellon Arena. "Yeah, I think he can do better."
Then again, the goalie wasn't the only guilty party after Thursday's drubbing, which put the Canes in an 0-2 hole going back to Raleigh for Game 3 Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). Ward deserves part of the blame, but as Maurice and many other players said, so do the guys who play in front of him.
"You know, we scored four goals," Carolina forward Ray Whitney said Friday. "If you score four goals in the playoffs, that should be enough to win. (Thursday) night our defense was the difference in that."
Whitney is on to something. Ward did allow six goals for the first time in his playoff career, but he faced 41 shots, eight of which came of Evgeni Malkin's stick and another four off of Sidney Crosby's stick. The superstars combined for 4 goals and 6 points.
It's the third time in these playoffs that the Canes have allowed 40 or more shots in a game. They're 0-3 in those games.
"I think just keeping more shots on to the outside and less of those (in the) prime scoring areas," center Eric Staal said in regards to what will do the trick to keep Pittsburgh from buzzing. "If we do that, he'll have a good chance of making those saves."
It's easier said then done against the high-powered Penguins, who thrive on controlling the puck and forcing a defense to run around. Just ask the Washington Capitals, who were outshot 257-182 by the Penguins in their seven-game series.
"They get their space and I think we need to take that away," Whitney said. "Too much time and good players with the puck; they're going to find guys open. We need to do a little better job being quicker to the puck and eliminating their time with it."
A perfect example of what the Hurricanes want to avoid came on Chris Kunitz's goal with 7.3 seconds left in the second period.
The Penguins kept the puck deep for nearly a minute and even get a partial change while Rod Brind'Amour, Scott Walker, Sergei Samsonov, Dennis Seidenberg and Joni Pitkanen stayed on for nearly a double shift for Carolina. They were gassed by the time Kunitz got free in the left circle and ripped home his first goal of the playoffs.
"We've had some breakdowns on our end, and they're just too good," Brind'Amour said. "They've got tremendous talent. If given those opportunities, they're going to bury it."
It's a two-headed monster for the 'Canes because when the Penguins' keep the puck for that long Carolina's offense obviously suffers. The Canes managed 14 shots in the final 40 minutes of Game 2 after peppering Marc-Andre Fleury with 14 in the first period.
"It's pretty hard to shoot the puck from our zone," Whitney said. "Obviously, Malkin is a concern that we have to address, as is Crosby. Beyond that, it's just more about how we played defensively and not so much on trying to shut down one or two guys."
Being at home should help Carolina because now Maurice has the final change and he can search for the matchups that he likes. He hinted Friday that it's going to be a strategy in Games 3 and 4, but the coach wouldn't divulge what he was thinking.
You didn't really expect him to, did you?
"When you have Malkin and Crosby, it's a little different monster there," Maurice said.
Ruutu still questionable -- Maurice gave a quick update on injured forward Tuomo Ruutu Friday, saying that the Canes won't know of his ability to play in Game 3 until he skates Saturday morning.
"He's not (feeling better) today," Maurice said, "but tomorrow morning we'll put him on the ice and see how he feels."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org