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Hurricanes look for answers after Game 1 loss

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- Minutes after a disheartening 4-1 loss to Boston at the TD Banknorth Garden in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Carolina coach Paul Maurice was at a loss to explain what went wrong.

"We didn’t play anywhere near the game we knew we were capable of playing," Maurice said. "I'm not sure how much of that was us and how much of that was them, but we’re going to work on not doing that again.

"We did some things that we’re not very proud of tonight, and we can’t do them again."

One of the things Carolina did was turn over the puck at inopportune times, allowing Boston to feast on counterattacks. Michael Ryder's goal that made it 3-1 at 12:38 of the second period came off a turnover in the neutral zone. Marc Savard's second goal, with 7:21 gone in the third, also came off a neutral-zone miscue. That goal made it 4-1 and effectively killed all hope of another comeback from a team that has made late-game heroics its calling card.

"We just started doing things we talked about not doing, turning the puck over," Carolina center Eric Staal said. "Not getting them deep.  They are a good transition team.  They will make you pay and they did."

Jussi Jokinen, who scored the only goal for Carolina, a slapper with 70 seconds left in the first period that beat Tim Thomas to the five-hole to tie the game at 1-1, said his team lost its bearings when Savard scored a rebound goal at 7:21 of the second to give Boston the lead again.

"I think that when they scored their second goal we started to panic," Jokinen said. "For some reason, we started to cheat too much and we didn’t play our own game and we started to do some stupid things."

But the Hurricanes are already trying to turn those stupid things -- like the neutral-zone turnovers and the running around in their own end -- into learning experiences. In addition, they are already touting the positives they can find in the Game 1 loss.

"I think we played a pretty good game for the first 30 minutes," Jokinen said. "The game was 1-1, and then we had some breakdowns. We have to play like we did for the first thirty minutes and we have to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot commit turnovers and we have to try to get on the power play."  

Carolina had only one power play in the game -- and it came late in the third period after Boston had already taken a 4-1 lead. The 'Canes know they can't count on an abundance of power plays to help them out.

First, the Hurricanes were just 2 for 29 against New Jersey in the first round. Second, Boston has allowed just nine man-advantage opportunities in five games this postseason.

So the Hurricanes will need to generate offense 5-on-5. Maurice understands that and he spent much of the third period trying to manufacture that offense by reconfiguring the top line several times. Chad LaRose, who started the game on the first line, Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole all saw time with Staal during the third period.

"This team is not all about Eric Staal," Maurice said "There are other players that we’ve got to put in better position to play better. A lot of those line combinations were in the end because we had to move to four lines."

The Hurricanes won't skate on Saturday's off-day. Instead, they will hold meetings to address some of the shortcomings on display in Game 1. Staal, for one, believes that his team can make the necessary adjustments. It did in Round 1, answering a series-opening 4-1 loss to New Jersey with a 2-1 overtime victory two nights later.

"We have to feel confident," Staal said. "We have to leave this one here and look forward to Game 2.  It’s a best-of-7 series for a reason.  We can be better and we know that."

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