Playing without the services of Captain Rod Brind'Amour and Alternate Captain Glen Wesley, we knew that we had our work cut out for us against the Atlantic Division leading New York Rangers. We were also without the Czech Condor, Josef Vasicek. The Canes answered the bell in a big way, winning 5-1 over the road-weary visitors.
In lieu of the Cap and one alternate, Kevyn Adams and Cory Stillman both wore the A, which isn't unusual. However, tonight, Mr Kristi Yamaguchi wore an A as well. He played a pretty solid game tonight even though he (Bret Hedican)probably hasn't slept a wink in a week. Kristy just gave birth to their second daughter Wednesday night.
First, I want to get into something I saw outside the arena that made me really proud. I walked past a group of tailgaters who were blasting their country music and eating hotdogs and whatnot. It's not the country music that made me smile, though. I actually hate country music. If you wanna know what I listen to, visit my other blog, which I always write while listening to music, and I always mention what I'm listening to. What made me smile is that these guys look like the antithesis of hockey fan, but they were having a really charged conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the callers to the post game call in show from Tuesday night. That's hockey, baby.
The first period started out pretty slow. Not a whole lot of action, and no penalties were called until the 14th minute.
At the 18:53 mark, with Carolina enjoying a four-on-three power play, Eric Staal rifled a blistering slap shot from about 50 feet out, at the top of the right faceoff circle. The goal came unassisted as he kept a clearing attempt in the zone and unleashed the clear shot.
Only 34 seconds later, Michael Nylander scored on an easy tip-in after Ray "The Wizard" Whitney turned the puck over deep in our own zone on the four-on-four. For that play, and for a notable failure to keep the puck in on a PP sequence, Whitney earned the Tevvy for the night.
The rest of the game was a little more fast-paced, with Kevyn "There's no I in Kevyn" Adams tallying a natural hat trick. The first goal came at the 3:30 mark of the second with assists from Radim "Czech Connection, party of one" Vrbata and Justin "Viva La France"² Williams. On the goal, a power play had just elapsed and Adams was able to streak into the zone ahead of two Rangers and put it past Lundqvist.
Adams' second goal (unassisted) came deep in the second period, at the 17:01 mark. It was way nicer than I remember it being, and watching it on the DVR made me think of a similar second period goal he scored (coincidentally) against the Rangers in the 2002-03 season. See the top ten goals link above, and wait for goal #4 to see what I'm talking about. Kevyn wrapped around and made a nasty little back hand shot go short side on Lundqvist. This time, he didn't have the fancy toe drag move, or undress any of the Rangers d-men, like he did in '03, but it was sweet nonetheless.
The third Adams goal came at the 11:33 mark of the third on a nicely executed odd-man rush. Vrbata and A Ward assisted Adams who easily finished the play with a wrister from the slot to achieve the first hat trick of his career. Actually, these were also the first three goals this season for Kevyn.
Some lucky fan won themselves a brand new John Deere lawn tractor, which will later be autographed by Kevyn Adams.
The fifth and final goal came on a shorthanded chance by Justin "Viva La France" Williams. The play was all him, as he broke up a pass in our own end and singlehandedly carried the puck into the offensive zone and wristed it in.
Good stuff that might not have been noticed:
- Not only did we prevent Jaro Jagr from scoring, but we kept him off the scoresheet entirely, and he finished the game at -3.
- Mikey C finished with a +2, leading all D-men in that category
- Craig Adams had seven hits, tops in the game. One of these hits was instrumental in allowing Kevyn to score his second goal.
- Radim Vrbata quietly snuck in two assists and finished the game with a +2. He's making a strong case for his place on the team.
The Gerber Baby was great again tonight, but he didn't have to stand on his head at any point. If not for a lapse by Whitney, he might have recorded another shutout.
Eric Staal was injured at some point in the third and went to the room with an "upper body" injury. Hopefully it isn't serious.
I say the game was a success by almost all accounts because our power play was 1-8. We can't get away with that if we want to continue to win. I know we're banged up right now, but that's not good at all.
With the win, the Canes improved to 14-3-1. Tampa also won, so our lead over them in the Southeast remains at 8 points, with the Canes having three games in hand. The 29 points ties us with Les Habitants for the Eastern Conference lead. Carolina has one game in hand on the Habs.
In the West, Detroit lost, but their 31 points remains tops in the League. Carolina also has two games in hand on Detroit.
On tap for
¹ We all know what a hat trick is. That doesn't need explanation. However, the natural hat trick is significantly less common. It's when a player scores his three goals consecutively, with no other goals occurring during the span.
² During one of the stoppages of play, the jumbotron showed several players responding to the question "Other than Raleigh, what's your favorite city?" Justin Williams' answer was "France". It's funny because it's France, and also because he chose an entire country when he was supposed to chose a city.