Hoping to bounce back

Carolina is also concerned with the team's offensive production

Staff WriterApril 21, 2009 

— The exhilaration of winning a Stanley Cup playoff game with an overtime goal didn't last long for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason.

About 48 hours, to be exact.

On Friday, the Canes happily mugged each other after Gleason's goal beat the New Jersey 2-1 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Prudential Center. They were going back home with a split of the two road playoff games, grabbing home-ice advantage.

On Sunday night, the Devils did the dancing on the ice after a 3-2 victory in Game 3 at the RBC Center that gave them a 2-1 series lead. Travis Zajac was the hero of the moment with his goal at 4:58 of overtime.

"It was obviously a tough loss, especially in overtime," Gleason said Monday. "It's playoff hockey. It's the ups and downs. It's interesting how at times you're on top of the world and the next time you're at the bottom, it feels like.

"The bounces sometimes go your way, and sometimes they don't. Hopefully, we'll get the good side of the bounces next time."

Ah, yes, the bounces. Hockey players are forever talking about the bounces. Good bounces, bad bounces, hard bounces, weird bounces, lucky bounces.

It's the bounces of the puck that can so often decide tight hockey games, that can decide a tight playoff series.

Consider the winning goal Sunday. A shot by the Devils' Zach Parise nicked the skate of Canes defenseman Anton Babchuk, with the puck bouncing to the left, directly to Zajac.

And there was another big bounce early in the winning sequence. In the New Jersey zone, Devils defenseman Colin White looked to make a forehand return pass across ice to Mike Mottau, only to fan on a bouncing puck.

"Yeah, I did," White said, smiling, Monday. "It kind of jumped, and I thought it was going to get away from me."

Instead, with Carolina center Matt Cullen closing in, looking for a takeaway, White scooped the puck up the near boards to Parise, who then wheeled into the Hurricanes' zone for the shot.

"It worked out, but it wasn't planned that way," White said. "That's the way it goes sometimes. Both teams had great chances. In every game, it's a play here or there."

Or a bounce.

"With hard work, you get the right bounces," Canes defenseman Niclas Wallin said. "It's tight hockey, and the luck comes with hard work."

Both teams worked hard in Game 3, from the goaltenders out. It was Stanley Cup playoff hockey at its intense best.

With the score 2-2 late in the third period, Carolina's Patrick Eaves got off a shot that deflected off a player. The puck went bouncing across the ice, with the Rod Brind'Amour ready for a one-timer and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur out of position.

But Brind'Amour fanned on it. Just 1:20 to play, and the veteran center -- who has 50 career playoff goals -- couldn't get his stick on the bouncing puck.

The Canes got their first goal, for a 1-1 tie, on a Ryan Bayda score after Jussi Jokinen whiffed on the puck in the slot.

"There are a lot of lucky bounces," Bayda said. "On my goal, it bounced through Jussi's skates right to me.

"Then there was the unfortunate bounce for us off [Babchuk's] skates. It's a game of bounces, a game of inches."

Good bounces or bad, nearly all of the pressure has shifted to the Hurricanes heading into Game 4 tonight at the RBC Center.

The Devils have reclaimed home-ice advantage. They won without captain Jamie Langenbrunner, sidelined with a lower-body injury that also will keep him out of tonight's game. They feel good about themselves, although hardly satisfied.

"We're not satisfied -- at all," Devils coach Brent Sutter said with added emphasis.

As for the Hurricanes, another loss and they'll be down 3-1 in the series going back to Newark, N.J. After winning 12 of their last 13 games at the RBC Center in the regular season, they would be 0-2 at home in the two most important games -- playoff games.

The Canes aren't generating much offense and have not had the lead at any point during regulation play. They're not scoring on the power play -- Carolina was 0-for-5 in Game 3.

"We need to make sure we're coming through the neutral zone with some speed, and once we get it in there, take the right shot and stay with it," Canes center Eric Staal said.

And maybe get a bounce or two.

EYE ON THE HURRICANES

NEW JERSEY AT CAROLINA, 7:30 P.M. TODAY

WHERE: RBC Center, Raleigh TV: FSCR RADIO: WCMC-99.9 TICKETS: www.ticketmaster.com

BURNING QUESTION

The Hurricanes have not had the lead during regulation play in any of the three games in the series. Will that trend continue? And will the Canes have to play from behind again?

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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