A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Canes win 4-1, widen lead in Southeast

While the Lightning were busy getting creamed by the Red Wings 6-3, the Canes took care of business on their end by defeating the visiting Devils 4-1.
Also in the East, Buffalo continued their torrid pace with a 4-3 win over lowly Pittsburgh. However, they couldn't gain any ground on Ottawa, who crushed Toronto 8-2. Ottawa has three games in hand and a lead of three points over Buffalo in the Northeast. Carolina has one game in hand and a five point lead over Tampa in the Southeast. In the race for top spot in the East, Ottawa leads Carolina by four points and they have two games in hand.

Rod Brind'Amour got us off on the right foot with a power play goal at 8:58 with helpers from Cory Stillman and Viva. Martin Brodeur was beaten badly on the goal, not looking anything like the goalie who used to own the Canes. There wasn't a whole lot of other action, as the teams combined for only 16 shots in the first period, but the penalty boxes were busy.

At 11:53 of the second, Devils newcomer Aleksander Suglobov scored a power play goal with helpers from Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta. It was Suglobov's first NHL goal, and the Devils' first PP goal in ten games. Interestingly, Suglobov wasn't even on the lineup card. Because of this, I suppose that in theory, Coach Laviolette could have protested the goal and they might have had to wave it off. I'll consult the rules book and get back to you on that.

The third was a goal-o-rama. At 1:59, rookie Chad LaRose scored into a vacated net for his first NHL goal with assists from Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen. On the play, Whitney was coming in unmolested and he forced Brodeur so far out of his net that when Whitney fed LaRose, Brodeur might has well have been sitting in the third row of section 129. LaRose had a tremendous camp, and was the last guy to be cut. Despite his lack of stature (5'10" / 173lbs) he is a very poised player, and an extraordinary skater. He's been playing really well since his call-up last week, tallying four points (1/3) so far in six games.

Just 19 seconds later, before the PA announcer could even announce the goal, the Canes struck again. Eric Staal scored his 22nd goal of the season by finishing a play created by Stillman and Erik Cole. Stillman left an absolutely gorgeous drop pass for the streaking Staal to poke in.

At the 15:17 mark, Erik Cole finished the scoring by slamming one home with assists from Stillman and Staal.

Staal now has 22 goals and 22 assists. His total of 44 points is eighth best in the league. At $942K, he has to be the best bargain in hockey. To be honest, I have no idea what kinds of performance bonuses he had built into his contract (of which this is the last year), but I'm quite sure that he'll be making substantially more than his base salary. I know it's a tough call to make, but I don't see how he could be left off Team Canada.

Speaking of which, who's going to be the one to make that call now that Gretzky's out? Technically, he hasn't stepped down from that post yet, but it would be physically impossible for him to handle those duties at this point given his situation.

One final note -- my boy Andrew Hutchinson was in the wrong place at the wrong time late in the third. He was checked hard into the bench area just as the door to the Canes' bench was open. Door closed, he would have hit the wall with no incident. Door open, he hit the frame of the door with his ribs. He hobbled off to the dressing room and never came back. I haven't been able to find anything about his status.

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