On Wednesday night, Carolina defeated Atlanta 4-3 behind a stellar game by Cory Stillman. They picked up two points in the divisional matchup, once again widening their lead over second place Tampa to nine points, with two games still in hand.
Of note is that Andrew Hutchinson notched his second goal. Added to his six assists, he's now got the requisite eight points in 19 games played, and the Canes haven't even hit the halfway mark yet. With Glen Wesley on the shelf for 4 weeks, A-Hutch should get plenty of ice time, and might even get a chance to earn an "every day" spot on the roster. By the way, I like mustard and hot sauce on that hot dog with cheese.
We'll get to Cory Stillman's great night later. I want to talk about Chad LaRose (aka "Chadwyck Von Rosenburg VII", aka "Cheddar", aka "Speedy", aka "Sharpie"). If anyone doubts whether he belongs on an NHL team, all you have to do is go to a practice or a game. Even if you watch on TV, you'll see how creative and skilled and speedy he is. He's really giving it all. Off the puck and on the bench, too. He's always trying to learn, and it looks like Ray Whitney is taking him under his wing. I love to see that from veterans.
Okay... enough of the sappy sentimental stuff. LaRose is speedy and creative and all that stuff, and as we learned last night, he's tough as shit. Early in the second, LaRose took exception to a brutal (but possibly legal) hit that Karl Stewart laid on the Canes' Matt Cullen at center ice. LaRose immediately stuck up for his teammate, and attacked Stewart. There was a very brief skirmish that left Stewart's face bloodied and LaRose in the box for 17 minutes. Two for instigating, five for fighting and ten for misconduct. Team toughness. Team togetherness. Good stuff.
Okay. So. About Cory Stillman.
Now, he has a nine game point streak going. He had two goals, including the game winner, and assisted each of the other two Canes goals last night. That brings his season totals to 42 points (12/30), and he is now on pace to have his best season ever. I challenge anyone to name a free agent acquisition who has been a better bargain than the $1.75M we're paying Stillman.
Both of his goals were kinda crazy. The first was an absolute fluke, as a centering pass intended for Eric Staal glanced off an Atlanta defenseman, then off Lehtonen's back and in. The game winner was a blast by Matt Cullen from the blue line. Stillman was parked out front on the power play, and he barely got a piece of it on the way in.
Kovalchuk had two nice goals for the Thrashers in the second period, during which the visitors scored three unanswered goals. The Canes, however, were able to respond with three of their own unanswered goals, started off by A-Hutch's power play blast.
The lone first period goal was really pretty. Stillman fed Erik Cole on cross-ice, two-line pass. Cole came in on a breakaway, and put it top shelf to finish the play.
Up next -- a home-and-home with the Islanders, starting at the RBC Center on Friday.
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