Canes' rally against Flyers falls short

Staff writerDecember 27, 2009 

— Peter Laviolette was a winner in his return to the RBC Center.

Michael Leighton won another shootout game at the RBC Center in his return.

While the Carolina Hurricanes did all they could Saturday to make it sad night for both, staging a late comeback, the Philadelphia Flyers emerged with a 4-3 shootout victory.

With 11 minutes left in the third period, the Flyers seemed to be rolling to an easy win for Laviolette, their new coach. Then, suddenly, the Hurricanes were playing like it was 2006, Laviolette behind the Carolina bench, and the Canes on their way to Stanley Cup.

Jussi Jokinen scored twice and Brandon Sutter had a power-play goal as the Canes rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score. Jokinen's first goal came 24 seconds after Daniel Briere's power-play score for the Flyers and ignited the rally.

"We scored a power-play goal and when you give up the next goal like that, it's easy for the momentum to switch and it did," Laviolette said. "You could feel it coming and you try to slow it down and reel it in, and Carolina's notorious for that, you know - being down and never out of a game."

The Hurricanes, who drew a high-sticking penalty on the Flyers' Jeff Carter late in the third, had a 4-on-3 advantage for the first minute of the overtime but couldn't put more than one shot on net.

In the opposite net, Leighton's counterpart, Cam Ward made some crucial stops to keep the Canes alive in the extra period.

In the shootout, Briere and Mike Richards had goals for the Flyers, while Tuomo Ruutu and Jokinen failed to score against Leighton, their former teammate and goaltender.

"We really competed hard in the third to battle back," the Canes' Eric Staal said. "It's too bad we couldn't get it done there on the [overtime] power play. In a shootout, you never know what can happen."

But Leighton had a pretty good idea what the Canes' shooters might try. Until placed on re-entry waivers by Carolina this month, he faced them all in practice and chatted them up on strategy.

Leighton, claimed off waivers by the Flyers on Dec. 15, gloved Ruutu's shootout attempt. Jokinen had Leighton beat but hit the left post with his shot.

Leighton was deemed expendable by Carolina after goaltender Cam Ward returned from a leg laceration this month and Manny Legace was made the No. 2 goalie.

"Obviously, it was nice to get the start here," Leighton said. "It's what I wanted when I saw this game coming up. I wanted to play this one.

"I was happy, obviously. We wanted to win 3-0, but the way things went, a win's a win and it doesn't matter if it's 6-5. Two points is two points."

That's what Laviolette said he wanted most from the game: two points. Fired by the Canes last December, he took over as the Flyers coach on Dec. 4 when John Stevens was let go.

The Flyers - and Leighton - now have won the last two games and are 4-7-1 under Laviolette. Leighton closed with 37 saves as the Canes got off 20 shots in the third-period rally.

Jokinen, who nearly scored in the first period, finally beat Leighton with a backhander with 10:36 left in the third. Sutter then scored on a power play with 4:02 left, and Jokinen knocked in the rebound of a shot by Staal with 3:13 left. Staal started the game on the wing on Jokinen's line in a change made by Canes coach Paul Maurice.

"I felt we generated some pretty good offense in that game and pucks just weren't going in," Maurice said. "We left enough on their goal line to know if we got one, we could get three."

"We were able to come back, but it's only one point and we need two points," Jokinen said.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8943

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