TV/ FSN-CR Not much to say about this one, folks. Those who saw it probably wish they hadn’t and those who didn’t don’t want to hear about it. The ‘Canes looked pretty pitiful, save for a third period surge, and fell to the Devils 4-1 in their playoff opener in New Jersey.

The good news is that, as the saying goes, you aren’t in trouble until you lose one at home. The ‘Canes could still be in great shape if they manage to steal one from the Devils on Friday, but in order for that to happen they need to study some tape and get their act together. The Devils outplayed them, purely and simply. Ward let in a soft goal or two, but the Carolina defense allowed him to be pelted with just under 40 shots and he was solid for most of them. A few well-times saves early in the game, however, and this could have been a drastically different result.

I had no qualms with the officiating. I did, however, with the broadcast. I know Forslund, Tracy and Co. were going down the ‘impartial” route – and please, tell me if you disagree here – but who honestly cared what Zach Parise had to say after the second period? I knew there weren’t many well-performing ‘Canes to chose from, but seriously…find one. Anyone. Somewhere.

The first two periods looked, for the most part, like an extended New Jersey power play. The ‘Canes couldn’t get it out of their own zone, much less set up a scoring chance or draw a penalty so the ‘Bab-O’-Cannon” could work his magic. Ward couldn’t get back into position after coming out of the crease to shoot the puck into a swarm of Devils players and Mike Mottau scored to make the score 1-0.

Parise scored early in the second to put the Devils up 2-0 when he slipped in between two Carolina defensemen and scored wide-angle on Ward’s blocker side. Elias blasted one past Ward from the top of the left circle later on in the period to add insult to injury.

Ray Whitney gave the Caniacs who hadn’t yet switched over to baseball yet an inkling when he scored on a rebound midway through the third period. It was a pretty goal that came after a fairly good stretch of Carolina possession, and this spectator even dared to hope for a second. However, 29 seconds later, Jamie Langenbrunner squashed that smidgen of hope, stomped on it a few more times, and even did a little victory dance on top of its obliterated remains. He scored the Devils’ fourth goal from well out, and that’s the way it ended.

Hopefully, this game will serve as a wake-up call for the ‘Canes. When Chad LaRose is the only noticeable ‘Cane on the ice and Patrick Eaves is generating the majority of your good scoring chances, you know you’re in big trouble. But remember, the team was blown out – at home, no less – in the first game of 2006 and that whole ‘playoff” thing turned out pretty well.

Wake up, ‘Canes. You’re in the playoffs, now. Manage 19 shots on Martin Brodeur and a few, half-hearted attempts to get past the Devils’ stifling defense and you’d might as well book a tee time for next weekend. Plus you don’t want to prove Kevin Smith right, do you? I mean, Dogma’s a classic, and Clerks was okay too, but…no. Just no.

Game 2 is on Friday night at 7:30 in Newark. Will the team of the last two months show up instead of this squad of sluggish, overwhelmed imposters? We’ll have to see.