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Bad time for a breakdown

Mistakes in third period cost Hurricanes dearly

Posted: Thursday June 06, 2002 11:28 PM
Updated: Friday June 07, 2002 3:28 AM
  Arturs Irbe Arturs Irbe made 27 saves but couldn't keep Nicklas Lidstrom from scoring the go-ahead goal. AP

DETROIT (AP) -- Arturs Irbe and a stellar defense saved the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs for the last month. That formula was working in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals -- until the final six minutes.

The Hurricanes allowed two goals or less in nine straight postseason games -- one shy of the NHL record of 10 held by the 1998 Dallas Stars. But Carolina and Irbe became unglued down the stretch as the Detroit Red Wings won 3-1 to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1 Thursday night.

"We just didn't skate good enough," defenseman Bret Hedican said after a 3-1 loss Thursday night. "They made some adjustments in the neutral zone and they moved it up the ice a little bit better and got some forechecking in on us. We've got to make some adjustments."

The Carolina defense blocked 21 shots heading into the third period and Irbe was sensational in net, stopping 26 before a one-timer from Nicklas Lidstrom on the power play beat him high and finally gave Detroit fans something to cheer about.

They would cheer again soon after.

Less than 13 seconds later, the Hurricanes were staring at a 3-1 deficit as Kris Draper surprised Irbe, who came in with a 1.45 goals-against average and a save percentage of .945.

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Both shots were high as it appeared the Red Wings adjusted to Irbe staying low to the ice.

"They were really well-placed shots," Irbe said. "On a better night I would probably be able to get a piece. I didn't pick it properly and that little room that was left was enough."

"There are times when he's going to have to hold the fort for us," defenseman Sean Hill said of Irbe, who made 27 saves. "There are going to be nights where we don't carry the play, and this was one of them."

So, the Hurricanes went from looking at another possible overtime scenario -- where they have been nearly unbeatable in this postseason -- to a two-goal deficit in a matter of seconds.

"There was too much hockey to be played to be thinking about overtime again," Josef Vasicek said. "We were focused, but they took a good shot at us late and they got the bounces."

Again, the normally disciplined Hurricanes were undisciplined, giving the Red Wings eight more power-play chances, which was one more than Game 1's total.

"They are calling it tight, but they have been doing it consistently for both games," said Kevyn Adams, one of Carolina's penalty killers who was on the ice when Lidstrom scored. "We want to stay out of the box a little more when they have guys who can move the puck like that. They needed one chance and he made a great shot."

The most costly penalty was a slashing call Martin Gelinas took with six minutes left, leading to the game-winning goal.

"That was just a bad penalty by me," Gelinas said. "It's unfortunate they scored because Archie was playing great hockey for us."

"We spent a little too much time in the box," captain Ron Francis said. "We have to be a little smarter with that. We can't keep giving them seven, eight power plays a night."

The BBC line also has disappeared as quickly as it became the NHL's hottest item.

Rod Brind'Amour, Bates Battaglia and Erik Cole were the talk of hockey after scoring 10 of the team's 21 goals in the second round of the playoffs against Montreal.

However, the BBC line has gone cold, going seven straight games without a goal, before Brind'Amour scored Thursday night.

However, Brind'Amour's goal didn't actually come with his linemates on the ice. It was a short-handed effort.

"We need to do something," Battaglia said. "I don't think we're pulling our weight right now."

The BBC line combined for just three assists against Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals and had just four shots in Carolina's 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 against Detroit.

After one period the BBC line had five of Carolina's seven shots, but didn't get much else the rest of the way.

"You can't get frustrated," Hill said. "We came up here to win one game and we accomplished that. Now we get to go home to our building and our crowd."

High on Carolina's adjustment list will be the power play, where the Hurricanes went 0-for-8 in Game 2 after a 1-for-6 effort in the opener Tuesday night.

"When we take the fourth line out of our rotation it makes things more difficult," coach Paul Maurice said. "We talked about not letting our 5-on-4 game affect our 5-on-5 game, but I think maybe it did.

"You have your top-end guys out there and if it's not happening for them they feel it a bit."


 
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