A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Canes win again, but get bitten HARD by injury bug

On Saturday, the Canes defeated the Penguins by a nifty 5-1 score. It was already the second time this season that the Canes have played games on consecutive nights. By contrast, the Pens have played just four games total.

Because of injuries on Friday to Andrew Ladd (shoulder -- two weeks) and Glen Wesley ("upper body" -- day to day) and a late scratch of Bret Hedican (hip -- day to day), the Canes were already playing shorthanded versus the Pens. They had to skate with 11 healthy forwards and six defensemen. Before the first period was over, they also lost Trevor Letowski, who was a healthy scratch on Friday. Rod Brind'Amour and Viva pulled a bunch of double shifts, both logging well over 20 minutes of ice time. Mike Commodore and Nic Wallin also skated more than usual. Times like these, skating two men shy of the roster minimum, and everybody double shifting, that "bag skate" pays dividends.

The Letowski injury was very scary, and I'll elaborate in a separate post. This was the second time in as many visits to the Mellon Arena that we've had a player rushed to the hospital with a very scary injury, but this one is a bit different.

This game was a highly publicized (in my best "Time-Life Books Civil War Chess Set" voice) "brother against brother" battle. It was the first time Eric Staal and Jordan Staal played against one another. The two had been text messaging each other all day long, playfully jabbing at one another. Apparently, they wagered "one Gatorade" on their head-to-head matchup.

Eric Staal scored the game's first goal at 2:24 of the first. Chad LaRose and "Avi" Tanabe got the assists. It was a play where the Pittsburgh defenders went to sleep. The Canes were applying pressure, and the Pens had possession of the puck, but failed to clear the zone. While some Pens skaters were crashing into each other, Staal was left unchecked in the slot. His backhand shot found Emma Fleury's five hole.

I made a note at 8:15 of the first that Trevor Letowski had an excellent point blank scoring opportunity, (actually two) but that Fleury stood tall, denying the goal. Just 20 seconds later, Letowski would be knocked out of the game.

At 9:34, Scott Walker got what would prove to be the game winning goal. A Nic Wallin point shot missed the net horribly, but bounced off the end wall to Walker, on the right faceoff dot. Somehow, he beat Emma on the short side, just between his pads and the right post. Wallin and Commodore got the assists.

Later in the first, Cam Ward made a great play to foil a breakaway attempt from John LeClair. At roughly 16:30, LeClair and Jordan Staal came in, and they each had a chance to finish the rush, but Ward said no.

Carolina was having some discipline issues in the first and early in the second, but their PK unit was doing a great job. Somehow, they found themselves on the good side of a 5-on-3 that lasted almost a full two minutes. They squandered the 5-on-3, and had an additional four seconds of 5-on-4. Technically, they also failed to score then, but they got a goal at 7:01 of the second, literally one second after Ryan Whitney's penalty expired. He was on the ice, but not in the play. Technically it goes as an even strength goal. The Canes were cycling the puck nicely on their two man advantage. Ray Whitney held the puck on the goal line at the left side wall. He spotted Scott Walker and Eric Belanger parked out front, centered the pass, and Walker shoved it in. Kevyn Adams got the secondary assist.

At 10:20, the Penguins got a scare of their own. As the Canes were in the Pens zone, a Penguins player shoved a Canes skater, who collided with Emma Fleury. Fleury lost his helmet, and suffered a cut on his forehead from somebody's skate. He left the ice, got some stitches, and later returned to the bench. Jocelyn Thibault stayed in goal for the duration.

At 12:43 the Penguins got on the board. Kristopher Letang attempted a shot from the left circle that looked like a knuckle ball. It was going to be well off net, but it deflected off Anton Babchuk's skate in the slot and got past Ward. Sergei Gonchar and Nils Ekman got assists.

Early in the third, the Canes opened it up a bit. With a power play sequence that had only just begun, Andrew Hutchinson blasted a one-timer from the center point that found its way past Thibault at the 1:11 mark. Viva and Eric Belanger got the assists.

At 12:47, the Canes struck again from long distance. Mike Commodore fired an innocent shot from the right point that somehow floated in on Thibault. It looked like it had been redirected, but it was just a change-up that handcuffed the netminder. Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney got the assists.

Carolina, who had been well disciplined a night prior, wasn't on Saturday. They committed 11 penalties, giving the Pens nine power play chances. Fortunately, the PK units limited the Penguins success to just one conversion. Some of the penalties, especially the holding penalty to Mike Commodore in the second period, were lazy. I know they were tired. Tired from playing back to back games. Tired from having to double shift to make up for injuries. But lazy penalties can't happen. By their own admission, the Penguins were listless on Saturday. Nine times out of ten, if you commit that many penalties, and they're the result of lazy play, the other team will make you pay. Carolina got lucky that Pittsburgh didn't.

Carolina has the day off, and will travel to the City of Tampa for a Monday night game. Then they will have a few days off before they have yet another set of back-to-back road games on Friday and Saturday against the undefeated Sabres and the Islanders, respectavely.

Momentarily, I'll be posting something about the injury to Letowski.

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