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Friday, June 14
Updated: June 17, 2:27 PM ET
Underdog Hurricanes unsatisfied with surprise run

By Wayne Drehs

DETROIT -- The celebratory music bounced off the Carolina Hurricanes locker-room walls in deafening tones.

Not because of the volume, but because of the message. Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," blared on the loudspeakers inside Joe Louis Arena. For the Hurricanes, there was nothing wonderful about it.

There was rookie Erik Cole, pants still buttoned, skates still laced, sitting in front of his locker, tears running down his face.

Not far away sat Ron Francis, leaning back in his locker stall, hands behind his head, eyes fixated on the ceiling, a nothing expression on his face.

And in another room, in front of a mirror, stood Arturs Irbe, shaving off his playoff beard, while wondering deep inside his head if he was to blame.

I see trees of green ... red roses too
I watch 'em bloom ... for me and you
And I think to myself ... what a wonderful world

The Hurricanes took Thursday's Stanley Cup loss hard. For those who thought they were just happy to be here, that just making it this far is an accomplishment in and off itself, the 'Canes believe otherwise. They came here to win. And now that they didn't, it hurts.

"Already since the game has been over, I must have had 20 people saying, 'Hey, you had a great season,'" head coach Paul Maurice said some 30 minutes after the final horn. "But it wasn't. We got here believing we would win. Not that we could win or we might win -- that we would win. So when you lose, you feel it."

Cole, a 23-year-old rookie, seemed to take it hardest. While the rest of his teammates were gathering their belongings, packing their bags and getting dressed to leave the arena, Cole sat in front of his locker, wiping away the tears with a sweaty t-shirt.

When reporters came calling and the spotlight started shining on his face, he looked down. His answers came in soft, monotone sentences.

"You guys all think that we should just be satisfied and, you know, content with what we did accomplish," Cole said. "But we still felt that we could have beaten Detroit. And it just makes it that much tougher to accept the fact that it's over."

I see skies of blue ... clouds of white
Bright blessed days ... warm sacred nights
And I think to myself ... what a wonderful world

When this playoff run started, few -- if any -- thought the Hurricanes would make it this far. When the Stanley Cup finals started, those few were the only ones who thought they could beat the Red Wings.

The Hurricanes insisted they belonged. They talked about the Super Bowl and the New England Patriots' shocking win over the St. Louis Rams. They swore that they, too, were going to stun the world.

Which they did, for a day, after stealing Game 1 in overtime, 3-2. But after that, there was nothing but disappointment for the Hurricanes. Carolina lost two games by just one goal, none more backbreaking than the triple-overtime loss in Game 3.

Carolina led that game 2-1 with less than 90 seconds remaining, when Brett Hull deflected a Nicklas Lidstrom slapper past Irbe. The game lasted until 1:30 in the morning, when 41-year-old Igor Larionov scored the game winner for Detroit.

The goal gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead in the series, not to mention the overwhelming edge in momentum. One can only imagine how different things would have been had Hull not scored. Or had the 'Canes scored in any of the three extra periods.

"That hurt," Kevyn Adams said. "We had them where we want them and couldn't put it away. And then we battled and battled and battled and couldn't pull it out in overtime. It was very disappointing."

Irbe put the blame for losing the series directly on himself. Though he was facing a vaunted Red Wings attack and stopped 148 shots in the series, his goals against average of 2.80 was hardly that of a Stanley Cup champion.

"At the end of the day, the Wings are the ones celebrating and we've got to go to the locker room and shave our playoff beards and move on," a clean-shaven Irbe said. "I wish I could have stopped a couple more shots. That's the toughest part for me. A goal is a goal. But I would love to have had a couple of those back. I think it could have been a different series."

I hear babies cry ... I watch them grow
They'll learn much more ... than I'll never know
And I think to myself ... what a wonderful world

Carolina was hurt most by its lack of scoring power. While its defense held the explosive Red Wings to just 14 goals in five gamea, its offense mustered just seven. Take away Game 1, and the 'Canes scored just four times in 15 periods, including the three overtime periods.

Thursday night's flight home to Raleigh likely was a long one. Though the franchise accomplished more over the past two weeks than it had over the previous 20 years, none of that mattered after Game 5.

Still, Maurice saw the shattered emotions of his players as a positive.

"I think they should absolutely feel as bad as they can," he said.

For how long?

"I really hope for a long, long time," Maurice said. "The longer you feel it, the more you thought it could happen, the more you believed it would. So I think sometime around the 10th or 11th of September next year, when the puck drops and you get all lathered up about all 30 teams, that's when we'll feel better."

Aaron Ward, who won Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in 1997 and '98, agreed.

"This is a starting point," he said. "If you want to take a positive out of this, if you want to make something good out of all this hurt, all you have to do is take this feeling, this hurt, this emotion and bottle it up for next year. And then ..."

And then maybe the music will be for them.

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for


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