The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate a last-minute win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 4. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
That’s the word that jumped to mind following the first period in Philadelphia Tuesday night. Not all that descriptive, I know. But it’s all I have. It was as if the Penguins and Flyers just didn’t have anything left after Sunday’s frenetic Game 3.
Sloppy execution and staid, ineffective power plays characterized Game 4 from the beginning. And the trap! From two of the top-four scoring teams in the league, no less. That and two ugly Pittsburgh goals in the second period killed Philadelphia’s momentum and let all of the air out of the Wachovia Center.
The orange was far from crushing.
And then Daniel Carcillo scored on the Flyers’ 40th shot of the game with eight minutes to play in the third and the entire game changed. The Wackos of Wachovia went postal and the Flyers feasted on the energy. The speed of play ratcheted up and bodies started flying. My interest renewed, I stopped checking in on the Detroit-Columbus game.
But it was all for naught. The Flyers were easily the better team, but failed to capitalize on their chances. Much of that was due to Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the best player in this game, but snakes were biting all over the ice on this night, too.
Tuesday was a lost opportunity for Philadelphia. Coming off an emotional win Sunday, the Flyers just couldn’t carry over the momentum from that 6-3 victory and must now go back to Pittsburgh Thursday down 3-1 in the series, a deficit Philadelphia has never come back from in its history.
Meanwhile in Carolina, the Raleigh Towels were out as the Caniacs looked to will their team to a 2-2 series tie. And it worked.
Carolina came out flying, pumping 15 shots at the New Jersey net and tallying twice before the game was 10 minutes old; the Devils didn’t record a shot until 13:25 mark. The siege continued in the second with 20 more Hurricanes volleys and another goal. But with less than 30 seconds to play in the middle frame, the winds began to change direction when Brian Gionta netted his second goal of the series, setting the scene for a wild third.
Just as the game was ending in Philadelphia, things got really interesting in Raleigh when New Jersey’s David Clarkson completed the comeback before the third period was half gone. The Caniacs were stunned. Not that they stopped cheering, it just went from confident revelry to a nervous roar. As the teams traded chances for the next 11 minutes, the tension grew, until, finally, it seemed overtime was inevitable.
And then it happened. With 0.2 seconds on the clock, Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen tipped a point shot past a rattled Martin Brodeur for the game winner. Rattled because he had been bumped for the umpteenth time this series and, as the puck was passed around the perimeter, Brodeur was unable to get set on the shot.
He protested immediately and nearly lost it after the review when it was announced the goal counted. Brodeur went mask-to-nose with the referee to plead his case, but, as is always the way in such instances, his protestations fell on deaf ears. The disgusted goalie slammed his stick on the boards in frustration as he left the ice.
The Hurricanes came back from the brink tonight, coughing up a three-goal lead at home before securing a skin-of-their-teeth victory. But that’s what teams must do in the playoffs: pounce on opportunities.
Philadelphia couldn’t answer the call, despite the momentum of a Game 3 victory and a rabid home crowd to start the game. Carolina did. And now the two teams are going in opposite directions with the Flyers on the fast track to the golf course and the Hurricanes carrying the momentum into what is now a best-of-three series. We’ll see Thursday just what they do with it.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazines.