The scene: the living room of Stately IPB Manor, as we settle down in front of the TV after a long day at work. We notice something is awry. There is an empty space in our peripheral vision where some brightly-colored objects are supposed to be… a void… on the mantle. We can’t quite put our fingers on it, though. Something is off… What could it be?
Then we look down.
Ye gods! Joyless Depression Clemmer! That’s what’s missing! Fortunately, he left a trail of clues for us to try to find the den of evil where the cats and/or Hockey Gods are holding him.
And as we followed the trail, collecting the stabby, stinky fishies and bucket (but no pelican, alas…), what to our wondering eyes should appear?
This has to be a good sign.
20:00 It is indescribably nice to have Doc back. It never feels like a real game when Gel-O’s got the call.
19:36 The Devils ice the puck right off the bat, and while we wait for the faceoff, Pookie asks, “Why is Holik playing again tonight?” Schnookie: “Because Langer’s still injured?” Pookie, having none of that: “Why couldn’t we dress PL3 instead?”
17:57 Tuomo Ruutu skates through the neutral zone, and as Zubrus watches him making to skate by, he decides, we guess, that he just doesn’t like that guy very much. His elbow into Ruutu’s chin, though, does not go unnoticed by the officials. It’s a bit of an upset in the “who’s going to be the first Devil to take an idiotic penalty” pool.
16:47 The Hurricanes have remembered how to play on the PP, after three games of looking hapless all the time with the man advantage. We liked them more the old way.
15:57 It didn’t look good for the Devils, but somehow they managed not to give up a goal on that PK. And now that the penalty’s been killed, we’ll admit that we don’t have any problem with Ruutu getting a faceful of elbow.
13:28 Nope, the Devils still don’t have a shot on goal.
13:25 Check that. Now they have one.
12:45 Chico has been talking tonight about how both Marty and Ward played baseball in their youths, Ward at shortstop and Marty at first. When Ward calmly gloves a weak-assed Devils attempt at a shot, Chico tells us he caught it like a shortstop, and then starts babbling about how Marty catches differently, like his firstbaseman training would suggest. Pookie: “Yeah, Ward catches like an athletic, quick fielder. Marty catches like someone fat and lazy.” Schnookie: “Marty catches more like a DH who’s been forced to play at first because it’s an interleague game.” Pookie: “Yeah, and the team already has a slow, fat guy in right field.” We have a lot of respect for the ballet that is baseball.
12:15 The Devils play some fantastic defense (by “fantastic” we mean “standing around and watching”) while the Canes send a few waves of players to whack at the fat, bouncy rebounds Marty’s leaving after each of the sequence of shots being peppered in from close range, and finally Hooters punches the puck through. It’s 1-0 Hurricanes.
11:13 Marty has not cleanly handled a single shot yet tonight, and his bobbling another rebound conspires with more confused, passive D from the skaters to lead to a Bayda goal. It’s 2-0 Hurricanes.
10:09 Pookie points out that this entire period has looked like the OT in Game 2. The Hurricanes are the markedly better team tonight.
9:30 Chico tells us the Devils need “a catalyst”, and volunteers Paulie to do it. Meanwhile, the guys on the ice are going offside for the umpteenth time this period. (Okay, that might be an exaggeration – the Devils haven’t had possession of the puck nearly umpteen times.)
8:27 Marty makes a big save, but again leaves a terrifying rebound. Pookie sighs exasperatedly, “This game is…” she trails off, looking for the words. “Not… fun. “
8:05 Havelid is fucking fired. Honestly, why can’t Andy Greene dress in his place? Greener can totally turn the puck over behind Marty’s net just as well as the Talc Boar, but we at least don’t hate him while he does it.
7:52 Gio and LaRose get matching unsportsmanlike conduct minors off a scrum in front of the benches on a change. Whatever. We suspect the Canes will have a decided advantage at four-on-four, too.
7:01 Paulie struggles with about 15 Canes draped all over him behind the goal line in the Devils zone, and Pookie tries to buck up. “Come on, Paulie! Coast to coast!” she cheers. Then she pauses while watching the sequence turn into another turnover just inside the blueline. She sighs and recalibrates her expectations, “Come on, Devils. Just get it out of the zone.”
6:06 We watch the Canes skate with ease around the Devils zone, and agree that all we’re asking now of this game is that Carolina get complacent and not come out as hard for the next period. Not that we’re saying that in hopes the Devils will win – it’s just for our own benefit, having to watch the last 40 minutes.
4:45 Doc is no longer paying attention to the play; he’s rambling about Harris Teeter, and how that sounds like such a “good, Southern name”. Pookie: “We’ve hit a point I didn’t think we’d reach tonight. I call it The Harris Teeter point.”
3:33 The Carolina pressure remains relentless. This looks like one of those games in February when Marty just really needs to be pulled – both because he’s sucking and as a motivator for the lazy skaters – but he won’t be.
2:29 What is that happening on the ice? Is that… a scoring chance? In the Carolina zone??? The Patty/Gio/Zubrus line actually manages to wheel a bit around the side of Ward’s net, and create a quick, mid-range, unscreened shot for Patty. Ward doesn’t have any trouble freezing it. Pookie: “That’s as close as we’re getting to scoring a goal tonight.”
2:10 LaRose gets called for something no one but the center-ice official noticed during a Poppers shift.
1:24 We’ve been joking for the last few minutes about how Chico criticized Zach during G3 by saying that truly great players don’t score one goal in playoff games – they score two. And now he’s parked at the side of the net, with a gaping goal in front of him, when Ward kicks a laser-beam rebound right to him. He doesn’t have the reaction to get a stick on it. Because he’s not a great player. Or something.
0:00 That period was what we expected this entire series to be, so we guess we should be happy that at least the late-season swoon Devils waited until tonight to start crapping the bed.
19:51 As Paulie starts the period off with a swaggery little shot from just inside the blue line, Chico tells us the Devils need to concentrate on “winning the next two period, because then they can’t lose.” Oooohhh-kay.
18:00 Travis tries to spring his fellow Poppers, but his long outlet pass to Rolston turns into nothing as both Rolston and then Zach are easily muscled off the puck in the corner to Ward’s left.
17:31 Chico tells us what the Devils need right now is Patty to step up and start getting stuff done. Us: “No shit.” Boomer believes Patty’s playing hurt. Meanwhile, MSG+ gives us a little stat on the screen pointing out that Patty is the only player currently in the playoffs who has an active streak of scoring at least one goal in nine straight playoff series.
16:43 The fourth lines take a shift, and as the Hurricanes seem like they’re content to be firing long bombs from the point while the Devils are content to not pursue any of the ensuing rebounds, Clarkson gets called for an elbow. Replay shows an apparent lack of an elbowing infraction, but considering how stupid the Devils fourth line is, we’ll just assume that MSG+ failed to queue up the right highlight.
16:18 PandoNation’s heart is set a-flutter, as its emperor-god tears down the ice in a stunning display of hustle and gumption, dragging a couple of Cane power play guys behind him, and drawing a PP-negating holding penalty.
13:25 The pace is getting torrid, with the Devils finally skating a bit more, but Marty once again gives up a total crap rebound on a three-on-three rush, and LaRose is able to score the easiest goal of his career while Havelid conveniently takes Marty out. It’s 3-0 Hurricanes. We wonder what the math is now on Chico’s hopes for the Devils winning this period.
12:16 Marty makes a glove save and doesn’t give up a rebound. We know! Shocking! Meanwhile, Doc is giving us instructions on how to use your playoff ticket strips. Apparently there’s a trick to it. If you’ve got a ticket strip, you’re going to want to use the one for “Round One, Home Game 3” for the next game. Not “Round Two, Home Game 4” or something like that. And don’t try re-using “Round One, Home Game 1 or 2”. They won’t work either. Pookie: “And when you’re going to the game, remember to put on pants. You do that by first putting your leg into one of the pant legs, then the other one into the other…”
10:33 We are not paying attention to the game right now, and are only partially listening, but we do hear Doc’s call: “Penalty coming up. Probably Havelid.” Yeah, no kidding. Andy Greene: “I can do that!” Sutter: “Shut up, Greener. That Havelid guy is my ticket outta here.”
8:28 The shots are 28-13 in favor of the Hurricanes. Chico finds this “amazing”. We don’t.
8:21 This game in a microcosm: Marty makes a save in traffic and kicks the rebound out toward a d-man. The d-man stands there waiting for the puck to come to him, facing toward the net. A Hurricane watches the play unfold for a moment, then decides to jump up from the point, and beats the Devil to the puck. The Devils are skating ever so hard.
6:24 The Devils think they’re doing something offense-ish. They’re not. It doesn’t count as offense when you’re just dumbly firing one puck after another into the shot blockers standing five feet in front of the blue line.
2:52 There’s a giant pileup in the Devils crease, with what looks like a penalty coming up on the Iron Boar while the puck is still loose, and then, as the whistle blows when Marty finally covers the puck, LaRose rolls over onto the Iron Boar’s let and operatically blows out his knee. We go to commercial watching the Iron Boar writhe on the ice, clutching at his knee, and taking whatever feeble playoff hopes we had for the Devils with him. We come back from commercial to see Rolston sitting dully in the box, serving the Iron Boar’s cross-checking penalty.
2:20 The Canes have 20 shots in this period. So far. The Devils, on the other hand, have made us throw up 20 times in our own mouths. So far.
1:44 We’re sitting in silence, our spirits completely broken. Pookie finally breaks the silence by beginning a thought, “Well, maybe the next two games…” she trials off, unable to fully form her attempt at optimism. From the depths of her chair, Boomer finishes for her, “…will be played without TV coverage.”
0:28 WOO. Gio scores on a breakaway. It’s 3-1 Hurricanes. Chico: “This changes everything!” Schnookie is about to go off on how it’s really not that big a deal to have cut a four-goal lead down to three goals when she realizes that it was actually only 3-0 Canes. Well. That does change things.
0:00 Is it over yet?
Whoops! Was there an intermission?
19:40 We suddenly look up from fabric shopping online to realize the game has resumed.
19:01 A spooooky thunderstorm is brewing outside. It’s just the kind of dark and stormy night during which Victory Euro Mats could be Matsnapped during a blackout or something.
17:44 Cole drills Zach from behind and puts the Devils on the PP just as the heavens open and start pelting stately IPB Manor with massive hail. We hold V.E. Mats close and dare the cats to try to take him if the power goes out.
17:08 This storm is pretty intense. And that’s not a poetic way of describing the Devils PP.
16:04 Marty makes a really awkward save on what Doc says “could have been the cash-in goal of the night.” We think about that for a moment, then Schnookie says, “That’s okay. 3-1 is a perfectly good final score, too.”
15:39 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! Ward takes a page out of his hero’s book and leaves a rebound right where Shanny’s standing, and Shanny calmly shovels the puck into the net. It’s 3-2 Hurricanes, and you can color us shocked.
13:18 A weak turnover at the Carolina blueline by Zach turns into a Hurricane two-on-one… and Oduya, smooth as silk, just coolly stands up the rush and pokes the puck back out to safety. That was a really good play by Johnny Handsome. And a really bad one by Zach. Just saying.
11:14 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CLARKSON!!! CLARKSON!!! DAVID CLARKSON!!!!! Our very own wraparound superstar has a shift where he looks like he’s trying to prove a point that he’s better than his fourth-liner linemates, and basically just takes over the game for a shift. After some hard work on the boards in the corner, then some hard work behind the net, he passes the puck out to Paulie at the point, gets it back off a rebound, waltzes through the ghost town that is the defensive coverage in front of Ward’s net, and rips the puck past the diving Ward. 3-3 game, and it seems that Gionta goal did change everything!
6:53 The Canes get their first shot since the tying goal. We are now really nervous.
4:00 The crowd is sounder tenser and tenser, and the play is clogging itself up pretty well as both teams are realizing the importance of the clock ticking down, and the Canes ice the puck weirdly on a neutral-zone bit of broken play.
3:17 The Devils did not retain possession of the puck off the icing faceoff, and now the Canes are pressing more. That said, both teams look like they’re playing for the extra point.
2:36 There is a grievous turnover on the Devils zone, but Samsonov bails them out by shooting wide on his glorious scoring chance.
1:43 The Patty/Gio/Zubrus line dominates for a shift, but they end up overpassing and nothing comes of it.
1:11 Hooters looks like he’s got the game on his stick after a frenzy of Canes activity, but he flops over in front of the net while Whitey stands somewhat culpably nearby. There is no call. The fans are not happy.
0:00 The Devils opt not to play to the buzzer, while the Canes do. A point shot from Seidenberg gets through the traffic, and with 00.2 on the clock, the puck is in the net. 4-3 Hurricanes, and at least we were spared fucking overtime. (Replay shows that Jokinen hit Marty while setting his screen, and Marty is livid. Well, maybe if you hadn’t played like complete crap in the first period, you might have won tonight, Marty.)
What a game.