On Sunday night, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Sabres 4-3 in overtime. The Canes now have a 3-2 series lead, and will have two chances to close out the Sabres. Game 6 will be at the HSBC Arena on Tuesday night. If Buffalo wins that game, there will be a game 7 back at the RBC Center on Thursday.
Although Carolina won the game, and looked dominant for stretches of the game, they were nowhere near where they were on Friday. Some will say that Carolina got lucky. Some will say that they "stole" the game. Some will say that the referees "handed them the game". Some will say that Buffalo had countless opportunities to put the game away, but couldn't. Some will say that Carolina took advantage of their breaks much better than Buffalo did theirs. Nobody will say that Carolina dominated the game. No matter what your take is, the Canes have put themselves in the driver's seat for this series. They are one win away from their second Prince of Wales trophy in four years. They are one win away from a date with the Edmonton Oilers. Five away from .... well...
It was hardly a surprise that Martin Gerber remained in net to start game five. However, he barely made it into the second period. Three goals on his first 11 shots. Two of the goals weren't his fault, but they still count. Chris Drury got the Swords off to an early lead at 7:08 of the first. Taylor Pyatt made a gorgeous pass from the Buffalo zone to all the way to the Carolina blue line, where Drury received the pass, beat the Canes defenseman one-on-one, and ripped one over Gerber's right shoulder. It was, for all intents and purposes, a breakaway. Aaron Ward was the only Cane anywhere near the play, and Drury blew right past him.
Fortunately, the Canes were able to level the score just 17 seconds later. After carrying the puck in the Sabres zone and dumping it down in the corner, Viva was left all alone in the right circle. Somehow, Nic Wallin had drawn all the Sabres' attention as he nudged the puck to Cory Stillman just behind the goal line. Stillman saw Viva all alone, who made no mistake firing one from the right dot through a triple screen of Sabres and past Miller.
Late in the first was the only goal that I would blame Gerber for. Derek Roy stole the puck from Cory Stillman at the half-wall, skated to the high slot and ripped one past a diving Mike Commodore and into Gerber's net. Even with Commy diving through the slot, Gerber had time to get a good read on it. It was a fantastic individual effort, and a great goal by the second-year player, who earned his 13th postseason point (5/8) on the unassisted goal. He would add an assist on the Sabres third and final goal. He should have been the game's third star, but it wasn't so.
At 1:55 of the second, the Canes defense again left Gerber out to dry. Commodore made a bad play at center ice that allowed Toni Lydman to spring free for a breakaway goal. Jay McKee and Derek Roy got the assists.
Mark Recchi got the Canes back in it at 5:21 of the second. Dougie Weight went behind and to Miller's left of the Buffalo goal, and made a sensational backhanded pass to the Recchin' ball, who was all alone right in front of the crease. Meanwhile, Jay McKee was standing around with his thumb in his ass. There was nothing Miller could have done about that. Every game, Doug Weight impresses me more and more. He and Recchi have been playing really well together, and they get better as a unit every time out.
The Captain knotted it up at three at the 10:04 mark with a power play goal. Frantisek Kaberle, running the point, flipped it to Eric Staal at the top of the left circle. He slid it across to the right circle, where the unmolested Rod Brind'Amour blistered the one-timer off the left post and in. There's no way in the world Miller was going to stop that one. In a rare goal-celebration, Brindy pumped both fists and thrust his arms upward. The momentum was now clearly on Carolina's side, and everyone in the building could feel it. With the assist, Staalsy extended his streak to 15 games. He now has 20 points (7/13) in 16 games played.
There was no scoring for the rest of the second. Or the third. At the end of the third, Bret Hedican took a hooking call, which made everybody nervous as all get-out. The penalty occurred at 19:19, and would obviously spill over into the overtime period. Of course, in the playoffs, we skate five-on-five, but nobody likes to begin a period on a penalty kill. The fresh sheet of ice is almost like having a sixth skater for the attacking team. However, the Canes were able to kill it off.
At 8:46 of the OT, Cory Stillman got the game-winner, setting off a huge celebration inside (and outside) the RBC Center. Admittedly, it was a lucky play, but the bottom line is the Canes finished a golden opportunity whereas the Sabres didn't finish their golden opportunities. Matt Cullen fired a shot from the left circle that was well wide of the net, but took a funny bounce to the front of the net. Ray Whitney couldn't get a stick cleanly on it, but it bounced out to Cory Stillman, who was hanging out in the low slot. He wasted neither time, nor opportunity in slamming it past Ryan Miller. It was his seventh goal and his league leading third game-winner of this playoff season. He is second on the team, and sixth in the league with 16 points (7/9).
Stilly earned the first star, while Cam Ward earned the second star, and the win in relief of Gerbs. Buffalo's Brian "Soupy" Campbell got the third star.
Game five in Buffalo on Tuesday night at 7:30. Game 7 of the ECF, or possibly game 1 of the SCF will be Thursday night back at the RBC Center.
Written while listening to To the Moon by Monster Movie.
3 years ago