On Thursday night, the Canes defeated les Habitants 5-1. Carolina easily won all four matchups between the teams, outscoring Montréal 25-9 in those games.
Although the Canes didn't have Captain Propecia to kick around anymore, they didn't really have much difficulty with the newly acquired David Aebischer. Actually, it made for a really interesting matchup. The two Swiss goaltenders. Gerber versus Aebischer.
Actually, the truth of it is that it was a good matchup until the wheels fell off for the Canadiens mid-way through the third. After that, it was almost like a shooting gallery for the Canes.
The game was full of karmic twists for Justin Williams. Two games in a row, Viva had goals nullified due to goaltender interference. Those calls were marginal calls, and they may have cost the Canes chances to win those games, but they were the calls that stood. Viva got his first of two assists at 5:24 of the second when he and Ray Whitney¹ came in on a breakaway. Williams was checked from behind and into Aebischer. Williams, for the most part, avoided the collision with the goaltender, but Francis Bouillon crashed into Aebi with enough force to take the two of them into the net, and knock the net off the moorings. Before the net came off, though, Whitney tapped the puck across the line. The non-reviewable call on the ice was that there was no interference (for once!). However, they reviewed to make sure the puck crossed before the net came off the pegs. It did.
At 16:02 of the second, Viva got his first of two goals just nanoseconds after a holding penalty to Glenn Murray had expired. He was all alone in the left faceoff circle, and Matt Cullen found him there for the easy goal high on the stick side of Aebi.
With Carolina clinging to a 2-1 lead at 9:47 of the third, Viva struck again with another good karmic play. Just seconds prior, Williams came in all alone on Aebischer, but was stopped cold. Carolina was able to maintain puck possession, though. Brindy and Viva came in with a two on one, and Williams roofed it glove side from just inside the right circle. Literally in eight seconds, the Habs crowd went from feverishly cheering Aebischer's stoning of Williams to loudly booing his inability to stop a two-on-one. How mercilessly fickle!
For the rest of the third, Carolina dominated. At 15:28, Ray Whitney got his second goal of the night when he shoved home the lose change from an Eric Staal wrister that went off the right post and bounced out to Whitters, stationed on the left post. Aebischer looked like he thought the Staal shot went in, because he gave up on it. Either way, it was a power play goal for the Canes.
At 16:31, Eric Staal got a very easy goal to make it 5-1 and finish the scoring. The Canes were on a two-man advantage, and the Habs were really showing signs of fatigue. It was another loose change type of play, as Justin Williams tipped a Ray Whitney shot. Staalsy found the short rebound just on the right side of the goal and easily slid it in for his 40th goal of the season.
For some unknown reason, David Aebischer was named the game's third star despite surrendering five goals. Eric Staal, with a goal and an assist was named the second star. Justin Williams, with two goals and two assists was the first star. He also won the daily Art Ross trophy over at Japers' Rink.
With 88 points (40/48), and 16 games to play, Staal is hoping he can hit the 50-goal mark. Indeed that would be pretty cool, as would the 100 point mark. However, Staal and the Canes are more interested in the team hitting a stride going into the playoffs.
Justin Williams, has very stealthily put together an impressive season, with 62 points (24/38), which is already well ahead of his previous NHL career high of 44 points in 2003-04. What's great is that across the board, just about every Cane can say the same thing of their season. Just about all or them are putting up career high numbers. Or in the case of Rod Brind'Amour, numbers that haven't been hit in ten years.
Up next for the Canes -- a Saturday lunch date with the Bruins at noon.
¹ Canes TV announcer John Forslund has recently taken to shouting out "EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND" whenever Ray Whitney does something good. I'm not a fan of it, and I will never follow suit. I wish he would just stick with calling him "the Wizard". "Wizard" makes less sense, but I just like it better.
5 years ago