Hitmen pay for crimes

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Nine Inch Nails sang the song Mr. Self Destruct.

It could have been the Calgary Hitmen's theme song Saturday night in Lethbridge.

The Hitmen handed Lethbridge 14 powerplays in a 5-2 loss in Game 2.

That makes 24 shorthanded situations in the first two games of the series. Last spring, the 'Canes enjoyed 25 manpower opportunities -- in the entire five-game series.

To make matters worse, the Hurricanes have converted five times. Last year, they scored one measly powerplay goal in the first-round loss.

Veteran centre Riley Merkley said his club needs to clean up its act before it also mimics the NIN's entire album name, Further Down the Spiral.

"We definitely can't keep this up," Merkley said. "Especially against a team like that which has a pretty potent offence on the powerplay. (Colton) Yellow Horn is going to hurt you if you give him chances like that and they have some other guys, too."

Yellow Horn was held to just three points by the '05 Hitmen. The diminutive Lethbridge offensive wizard matched that total Saturday night alone with a trio of assists, all -- you guessed it -- on the powerplay.

"The first shift of the game, we took another penalty and were in the box all night," Merkley lamented after the 'Canes snapped a nine-game losing streak that dated back to March 1.

"It's unacceptable and it's not the way we're going to win this series."

Were their some dubious calls on the weekend? Without question.

Did the Hitmen deal with the adversity well by putting their heads down and getting back to work? Hardly.

They came unglued at the seams, blew their tops and spent almost the entire third period in the penalty box or taking early showers for running-off-at-the-mouth misconducts.

"I'm not going to comment much on the reffing," Merkley said. "But that's going to happen in the playoffs and it's something you have to battle through.

"We have to be a hell of a lot smarter. It simply comes down to that."

Team captain Brett Carson, as level-headed as they come, said his squad has to be able to shake off the iffy officiating.

"Maybe there were a few calls that went their way," the overage blueliner said. "But we have to play through that stuff. It's the playoffs. Good teams find ways to win."

Saturday, they found plenty of ways to lose.

"You can't expect to win (playing shorthanded so often). In the first game, we were lucky to come out with the win," he said of Calgary's 3-2 series-opening victory despite giving up 10 powerplays.

"We've talked about discipline. We've talked about it all year, it's been an issue.

"The ones that kill us are the roughing after the whistles and those kinds of things. In playoff hockey, you have to put the team first. You have to take that punch to the head and hopefully draw a penalty."

Carson said he hopes to ensure Saturday's fiasco is not repeated.

"Playoffs are full of emotion and we let it get to us in the third period," Carson said.

"As a leader, that's where I have to step up and help the guys control it. We have a young team and it's their first crack at it for some of the guys. They don't have much experience with it and in a game like that, it's pretty easy to let the emotion get to you."


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