The Canes have had a few lopsided losses this season, but last night’s 8-1 home loss to Philadelphia seems to be in a category all by itself.
Unlike the 5-1 loss in Vancouver and the 7-4 contest in Florida that his team has already experienced, coach Paul Maurice was considerably more upset about Thursday’s result against the Flyers due to the way he believes his team folded in the third period. After Chad LaRose had scored Carolina’s lone goal midway through, Philadelphia tacked on three more in the final 11 minutes to seal the rout.
“This was the first game of the season where I thought we imploded,” said Maurice. “We started to create our own problems, and that’s unacceptable. It’s more about mental toughness and believing in what you do, so that when things go bad for you on a certain night, and they do for every team in every league, that you handle that part right so you can come back the next night.”
With nothing to build on from Thursday, the Hurricanes will instead try to channel their frustrations Saturday in Montreal. They had success after the Vancouver and Florida games mentioned above, putting in great efforts to win their next game in both cases, and hope to put in a similar effort now that the intensity seems to have been turned up a notch.
“I can tell you that going down 8-1 should be a motivator,” said defenseman Tim Gleaosn. “You can’t play games like that. If you have one or two of those a year, that’s all you should have.”
“We’ve got some responding to do here, for ourselves and just in our own room,” said Maurice. “They’ve got to look each other in the eye and have some self respect. After a performance like last night, I do think that energy is going to be what we’re looking for, more than anything.”
Maurice said that the coaching staff would consider making a change at forward, with the healthy Patrick O’Sullivan having not played since Oct. 30 vs. Pittsburgh. That change could be as simple as removing rookie Jon Matsumoto and having Jussi Jokinen slide over to center to allow O’Sullivan to play his preferred spot on the left wing, or a stronger message could be sent. The coach also said that health could be a factor, with a small number of players thought to be playing through minor injuries.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” said Maurice. “When you have a night like that, you want to give everybody an opportunity to redeem themselves. They deserve that chance, but at the same time you got beat 8-1 at home and changing the lineup wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.”
Lines and defensive pairings remained the same at Friday’s practice, with Maurice saying he did not expect to make any changes on the blue line. With both Cam Ward and Justin Peters getting some work on Thursday, Ward should make his sixth consecutive start in what’s become a very important game for the Hurricanes.
“Sooner or later you have to either go with the wins or it will show with the losses,” said Gleason. “We’ve got to get a stretch of games where we’re winning and be consistent. We know our game, and if we can play that game consistently we’re going to have success.”
While Thursday’s loss continued a recent string of dominance by the Flyers over the Hurricanes, Carolina will have that same type of history favoring them on Saturday. They have not lost in Montreal’s building in regulation since Dec. 6, 2003, having gone 9-0-3 since then.
However, they expect a tough atmosphere this time around, with Montreal having just picked up a big 3-1 road win over the rival Boston Bruins. Starting goaltender Carey Price has had his share of struggles playing in Montreal, but has allowed just six goals over his last four games.
“They’re going to come both barrels because they’re coming off a big win in Boston, it’s a Saturday night and the crowd is going to show their appreciation to that team early,” said Maurice. “We’ve got something to prove and they’re feeling good, so it should be a dandy.”