On Friday night, the Hurricanes did exactly what they needed to do. They won the game, and more importantly, they did it in dominant fashion. The final score was 4-0, but it wasn't really even that close.
Right out of the gate, there was a little (very little) bit of controversy about the Canes choice of goaltender. Martin Gerber got the start, which I thought was the right thing even before the game started. Gerbs (or as JP of Japers' Rink likes to call him, "Baby Food") was great in relief on Wednesday, and deserved the start.
Carolina got the scoring started at 6:54 when Mark Recchi got a redirect of a Frank Kaberle point blast. It looked like it bounced off a defender (which would turn out to be a recurring theme), but it was clean. AWard got the second assist.
Just three minutes later, Carolina scored again on the power play. On their first shot of that power play. Eric Staal wristed one in from the right dot that squeezed through a postage stamp sized window over Miller's right shoulder and just inside the left post. He extended his playoff point streak to 14 games, which becomes a new franchise record with each game. Bret Hedican got the primary assist and Ray Whitney got the second. Staal continues to lead the playoffs with 19 points (7/12) through 15 games.
The next few minutes featured a lot of end-to-end play and several good chances for each team. Somewhere around the 12 minute mark, Chris Drury made an amazing move that created a very awkward but excellent scoring chance as he came in the Carolina zone 1-on-2. Gerber made a great save to thwart that. Two minutes later, Max Afenogenov had a pretty good opportunity on an essentially open net, but he couldn't pull the trigger.
What came next, though, may have been the defining moment of the game. Mike Grier drew two penalties against the Canes. The first was defenseman Glen Wesley for holding at 14:48. The second was Martin Gerber for interference at 17:46. During the four minutes of power play, the Sabres failed to get any shots off. And they lost every power play faceoff in which Rod Brind'Amour participated. I thought the Canes defense looked fantastic during those segments. In particular, Bret Hedican was a monster during the penalty to Gerber. He shut down everything. Everything. The Crossed Swords weren't able to even generate any chances.
Very early in the second, Rod Brind'Amour had a clean breakaway chance, but Miller made perhaps his best save of the game to keep it 2-0. However, that wouldn't last long. Andrew Ladd scored his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal at 2:10. It was a garbage goal on a rebound, but he'll take it anyway. Dougie Weight fired a one-timer from the right circle that Miller kicked right out front to Ladd, who easily slid it inside the left post for the 3-0 lead. Glen Wesley got the secondary assist.
Not much happened in the third. The Canes just tightened the screws and went about their business.
At 16:03, Bret Hedican closed out the scoring with a really odd goal. He and Brindy were coming in on a 2-on-1, Heddy on the right and Brindy on the left. From the top of the right circle, Heddy attempted a pass to Brindy, but it got caught in Brian Campbell's skate, and slid through Miller's five hole. Viva and Stillman got the assists.
We saw a complete effort by the Canes, and at least in this game, the Sabres looked off. The mounting injuries surely had something to do with it, but credit should be given to the Canes.
There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the mind of The Acid Queen, that Tinu will be the starter in game 5. And game 6. And (if necessary) game 7. You usually don't change your horses mid-stream like we did, but when one of your horses looks like Man O' War, you've gotta ride him. And keep riding him.
The Buffalo media handed out the stars thusly: 1 -- Gerber; 2 -- Staal; 3 -- AWard. Obviously I have no beef with Gerbs getting the first star. I'm not sure, though, how Heddy gets left out. He played an amazing game defensively, had a goal, had an assist. I don't know what else one has to do to earn a star in a 4-0 game. AWard was good, but I thought Heddy was better. And making the scoresheet helps, too. If I were picking the stars, I would have gone 1 -- Gerbs; 2 -- Heddy; 3 -- Staal. Of course, this is another academic issue.
With the key win, the series is tied 2-2. Now it's a best of three series, and the Canes have home ice. I expect the Sabres to look sharper on Sunday, and they might have the services of Teppo Numminen, but that's 50-50. Or, as he said, "50-60". Whatever that means. The Canes will have to keep up the excellent play that they exhibited tonight, and they'll have to get help from the crowd. I'm hoping for a less prevalent Sabres turnout than we saw for game one.
Puck drop on Sunday will be 7:30. I'll be tailgating in the RBC parking lot starting around 4 if anyone wants to meet up.
Written while listening to Ancient Melodies Of the Future by Built to Spill.
4 years ago