RALEIGH, N.C. -- There was little of the expected joy on the faces of the Carolina players after they plucked victory from the jaws of defeat in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Rod Brind'Amour's gift goal, off a miscommunication between relief goalie Ty Conklin and defenseman Jason Smith, delivered the Hurricanes an improbable 5-4 victory against visiting Edmonton in the first game of this best-of-seven series. Game 2 is here, at RBC Center, Wednesday night.
But, the victory did little to placate the Hurricanes, who fully realize they were lucky to erase the three-goal deficit they so richly deserved earlier in the game.
"I'm almost confused what to feel, honestly," said Peter Laviolette, the Carolina coach. "Like I'm a believer in playing the game the right way and you'll win more games than you'll lose. In the regular season, I'm always worried about the way we played, and I think the play will take care of results nine out of 10 times.
"But we're in the Stanley Cup Final right now and need four wins. So we're going to take that win and work on the second part of it, which is the game and how we play."
For the first 37 minutes of Monday night's game, the Hurricanes played like a team that did not deserve to be in the game's showcase series. They were out-skated, out-hit, out-hustled and out-played by a visiting team that had not played a competitive game in more than a week. In fact, Cam Ward, who had 34 saves, was the only reason this game remained manageable at times -- even after they clawed their way back into the game in the third period.
Needless to say, none of these facts went over well with the home club.
"We played terrible, the two periods," said Ray Whitney, who kick-started the Carolina comeback with a back-to-back goals to open the third period. "You know, we left the game tonight feeling very fortunate. We played a little better in the third, but we still got ourselves into some penalty trouble late in the third. So we are not kidding ourselves, we're not real pleased with the way we played tonight."
Forward Kevyn Adams says his team was especially disappointed that it allowed Edmonton to get the early jump and take a decided advantage in the play.
"They did a good job of dictating the way the game was played," said Adams. "We're on our toes and going when we are playing our game. They controlled the first 40 minutes, so give them credit."
Brind'Amour agreed, saying Edmonton quickly shook off the rust of its layoff and played a prototypical road game.
"I think to their credit, they played a good road game," said the Carolina captain. "You could see that was their intent, to not take too many chances and stick to their game plan. You know, they bottled us up for the most part."
Still, Carolina knows that they cannot allow Edmonton to dictate the pace going forward. Because, the Hurricanes know that three-goal comebacks cannot be the norm in this series.
"I don't think you will find anybody in our room that is real happy with the way we played," said Laviolette. We've got to be a lot better if we are going to be successful in a seven-game series. We are better than that. We just didn't show it tonight."
And, for the most part, that was the reason for the lack of smiles in the Carolina dressing room Monday night.
"I think there is two reasons for (the lack of smiles)," said Kevyn Adams. "One is it's one win and that's it. It's nothing more, nothing less. There's a long way to go and it's going to be a long series. So, you're happy, you take the win; but it's just one win and you need four.
"But, the second part of that is we know we have to play better hockey. We'll certainly take the win, but we know we have to be better."
Maybe when that happens, the smiles -- as gap-toothed as they may be -- will be a little more prevalent in the home dressing room.