The Vancouver Canucks waited until the third period to play meaningful hockey against the worst ranked team in the NHL, and that gamble cost them two points.
Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes missed 10 games in October with a broken leg, but seems to have recovered well. Though one goal was rather a fluke, with Willie Mitchell unknowingly kicking the puck into the net behind Andrew Raycroft, Cole played and skated with determination.
"It could have been four or five (goals) tonight," said head coach Paul Maurice. "I think he has been skating much better, and when he skates like that he's a handful, and it opens up the ice for everybody."
Jannik Hansen opened the scoring at 12:02 of the first period, but momentum quickly changed hands. Eric Staal sent a pass to Ray Whitney only 20 seconds later, and he backhanded the rolling puck over netminder Andrew Raycrofts shoulder.
Ray Whitney and Sergei Samsonov added second period tallies, and the 'Nucks headed into intermission down by three. As noted, they worked hard and had a call go their way for a Carolina penalty to Samsonov in the third stanza. At 10:07, Steve Bernier got off a quick shot in the slot to beat Manny Legace, receiving a pass from behind the net from Mikael Samuelsson. Henrik Sedin had added success from behind the net, throwing a puck to the front of the net, with Alex Burrows deftly knocking the puck out of mid-air and into the back of the net to make it 4-3.
Vancouver could get no closer, and pulled Raycroft for the extra attacker while on the power play with a minute to go in the game. Erik Cole nabbed an empty net goal to seal it away at 19:46.
"Their top players certainly played a really strong game, but for whatever reason again we had a second period that was tough to explain," commented Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault.
A Vancouver win would have put them back into a playoff position, but instead have to settle for 9th in the Western conference.
Now 2-1 on the road trip, they finish up in Nashville on Tuesday, with a chance to steal Nashville's spot in the playoff race. The Canucks (16-13-0) return home on Thursday to play the Atlanta Thrashers (15-8-3) at GM Place.