On Friday night, the Canes finally won a game, and people will finally stop asking me "Dude, what the eff is wrong with your Canes?" It took a little more of that dramatic fashion stuff than I would have liked, but a win is a win. More importantly, a regulation win is very important in divisional play.
Coach Laviolette decided to shake the lines up a bit, so some guys were playing with guys they've never lined with before. Also, Lavi dressed seven defensemen and gave Trevor "The Dude" Letowski the night off. The lines looked like this:
Scott Walker, who had been playing well on the third line, the "new guy" line with Eric Belanger and Trevor Letowski, got a chance to move up to the first line. Erik Cole moved down to the second line and over to the right wing. CrAdams moved off the "Adams Family" line up to the second line with Brindy and Cole. Canes TV color commentator Tripp Tracy refered to this line as "The ABC Line", then added "... for those who enjoy the alphabet". Okay...
The third line, formerly composed of all new guys, was shaken up quite a bit. Andrew Ladd and Ray Whitney bookended Eric Belanger. With CrAdams up on the second line and Trevor Letowski scratched, Andrew Hutchinson was dressed as a seventh defenseman and played left wing on the fourth line.
This move payed huge dividends for Craiggers, who scored the game's first two goals. At 9:33 of the first, CrAdams scored by getting behind Kari Lehtonen on the rebound from an Erik Cole shot from the slot. Lehtonen made the first stop, but Adams was there to grab the rebound on the left side of the goal mouth. Lehtonen was already too far out to get back for Adams' shot. Erik Cole and Rod Brind'Amour with the assists. It was Brindy's first point of the season
At 15:27 of the first, Adams got his second goal. Nic Wallin fired a shot from the blue line that was handled by Lehtonen, but the rebound popped out to Adams in the low slot. He patiently slid over to the right side of the net and eased the puck in. Wallin and Brindy each got a helper.
At 19:59, the Canes got their first of two dramatic goals. Down in the Carolina end, Mike Commodore made a nice defensive play, after Cam Ward had made a great stop on Ilya Kovalchuk. Commy flicked the puck off the glass, and down ice to Eric Staal, who was streaking down the right side. Staal broke into the Atlanta zone ahead of two Thrashers and beat Lehtonen off the right post. Commodore had the only assist. The play was reviewed to make sure that the red light beat the green light. It did. Initially, they showed 00:00.1 on the clock, but they reset it to 1.6 seconds. Neither is time enough to do anything from a center ice faceoff.
In the first period, the Canes looked really sharp. They played extremely well in their own end, and had good puck movement in the Atlanta end. The latter is something that we just haven't seen much of this young season. It will mostly go unnoticed, but Eric Belanger had a good first period, and a good game. He didn't crack the scoresheet, but he played very well on both ends.
The second period was owned by the Thrashers. They were pretty much having their way and controlling the flow, getting better chances. All that. At 14:18 of the second, Jon Sim put the birds on the board on a crazy play. A Thrashers shot sailed wide of the net, hit the endboards, and bounced back over the goal, where two Thrashers skaters were hanging out in the crease. The were feverishly whacking at the air and the puck, and Cam Ward was lucky just to have even had a chance on the play. He made one stop, and the puck just barely snuck in under him and to his right. This goal was also reviewed. I'm not sure why. Glen Metropolit and Vitaly Vishnevski got assists.
Only 22 seconds later, Jon Sim made the game interesting. Whereas the first goal was somewhat of a fluke, this second one was a case of making something our of absolutely nothing. Vyacheslav Kozlov slid a pass into the goal mouth area from behind the goal line on the right side. Sim took the pass on the right side of the net, and with Tim Gleason pressuring him, he made a perfect shot. He didn't have any time or space to maneuver, but somehow he found the back of the net. Kozlov's assist was the only one on the play.
Nothing happened for the next 20 minutes. The Canes looked really flat, and the Thrashers had several good chances to knot it up. Atlanta committed two penalties, but their kill looked great, and the Canes never mounted any serious threat. Then, at 14:39 of the third, almost exactly 20 minutes after Sim's second goal, Bobby Holik tied it up. He made a tremendous move to skate through a bevy of Canes defenders. He attempted to make a pass to a teammate through the slot, but it caromed off a defensman's skate and right back to Holik. He made no mistake putting it in. Scott Mellanby and Andy Sutton got assists.
As the period wound down, it looked like the game was destined for overtime. Nobody likes to go to overtime against a divisional opponent, but one standings point is better than none, and at that point, the Canes would have been content to take the one point. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. Atlanta committed an icing infraction with just 00:08 on the clock, bringing the face off down to the Thrashers end, at the left dot. Brind'Amour won the draw, and somehow Eric Staal ended up with the puck behind the goal line on the right side of the net. He made a blind centering pass to Ray Whitney, who didn't quite get all of it, but got enough of it to send the puck past Lehtonen with less than a second remaining. Staal and Brindy got the helpers. Whitney, who I had just called out a day ago, got his first goal of the season. More importantly, the Canes got their first win of the season. To reiterate a point, the buzzer beater was enormous in another way: it denied Atlanta a standings point that they would have gotten for going to overtime.
All goals were scored at even strength.
Counting the two buzzer beaters scored by the Canes on friday night, I can now think of three times that the Canes have scored a goal with less than a second remaining in a period in the Philips Arena. On March 5 2004, Kevyn Adams scored a shorthanded breakaway goal with four tenths of a second remaining in overtime at Philips Arena.
Tonight, the Canes will take their traveling road show to Pittsburgh. The Canes will see their friend Mark Recchi, and Eric Staal will see his brother Jordan. Erik Cole will not be seeing Brooks Orpik, who is out after having hand surgery.
3 years ago