On Monday night, as the Canes hit the midway point of their 7 game, 14 day road trip, they handily defeated the Lightning by a 5-1 margin, earning their third win in a row. After getting off to an exceptionally slow and low scoring start, this was the third straight game in which the Canes scored the first three goals of the game. Also, Justin "Viva" Williams would notch his first three goals, and Rod Brind'Amour would record three points.
Although the stats sheet shows that the City of Tampa had more shots on goal than did Carolina, the Canes were very much in control of this game. If there was a time of posession by zone chart, it would slant heavily towards Carolina. Cam Ward had another great outing, turning aside 34 shots en route to his third consecutive win. This time, he was 133 seconds shy of pitching his first career regular season shutout.
Two of Carolina's top guns from last season got their first goal of this season, and hopefully they will be on track looking ahead. Also, the new guys continued to look good.
At 4:28 of the first, Rod Brind'Amour finally got his first tally of the season. The play was beautifully begun with a long bomb pass by David Tanabe to Viva. It ended with Erik Cole taking a shot from just below the right faceoff dot. The shot glanced off Brindy's skate and into the Tampa net. Cole and Viva got assists.
The really nice two line pass by Tanabe was just the first of many good things that he did, giving the trepedacious Canes fans room to breathe with regards to the embattled once and present Cane.
At 3:11 of the second, Viva finally got in the goals column on sort of a crazy play. Marc Denis (sorry, but I can't help but think of the Blondie song "Denis" here) came WAY too far out of his crease to play a puck in front, and misplay it at that. Becuase the goaltender was way out of position, the Tampa skaters had to scramble, and were all out of whack positionally. There was some chaos in front of the net, and Viva banked a shot in off Denis' back from benind the goal line. I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't meant to be a pass to Eric Staal out front, but it ended up in the net. Statistically speaking, it was a wrist shot from 12 feet out. Shot distances are measured not from the goal line, but from the end wall. Still, though, the goal line is 11 feet from the end wall, so it probably should have been called a wrist shot from 10 feet out. It's all academic, but it's fun to belabor points like that after a win. Eric Staal and Scotty Walker got the assists.
At the 9:08 mark, the Canes forged ahead, scoring a power play goal on a completely beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play. Eric Staal, who has been manning the point on power plays, did a really nice job keeping a clearing attempt in the zone. He hit Ray Whitney with a pass from the left point to the slot, and Whitney passed to Belanger, just off the left post. There was nothing Denis could do. It was Belanger's second goal of the season. Ray Whitney picked up his fifth assist and Eric Staal his third.
At 17:21, the Canes notched another power play goal. Brindy hit Anton Babchuk for a really amazingly hard one-timer from the center point. It was a rising shot that first appeared to go straight in. However, it was later ruled that Viva got his stick in there for the re-direct. It was Viva's second goal, Babchuk's first assist, and Brindy's fifth. Everyone always talks about how hard Babchuk's shot is, and this was a good example of it. Some folks use words like "howitzer" or "cannon".
Very early in the third, Viva got his third goal to complete the hat trick. Ray Whitney sent him a pass that was deflected off a Bolts player's skate, and Viva neatly deposited the puck in the net from the left face off dot. 0:37 was the time. "The Wizard" got the primary assist, and Brindy picked up the second, for his third point (1/2) of the night.
Nikita Alexeev spoiled Cam Ward's shutout bid by slamming home a big rebound out front at the 17:47 mark. Dimitri Afanasenkov and Luke Richardson got the helpers.
In addition to the hat trick by Viva, the productive night from Brindy, and the continued success of the new guys, there were some other really good things about the game. Carolina was superb on power play. They converted three out of seven power plays, including two out of three in the second period of play. They also played a very well disciplined game. They only committed five penalties, and they killed all three Bolts power plays.
Carolina is doing all of this on the road. In the midst of a very long trip. And they are doing so while their roster has been decimated from injuries. Once again, prominent defensemen Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley sat out. Also, Andrew Ladd has been placed on the IR, and Trevor Letowski will be out indefinitely. Add that to Frantisek Kaberle and Cory Stillman, who were already on the IR, and our team is looking like a M*A*S*H* unit.
The Canes will actually return to Raleigh to sleep in their own beds and practice on their own ice, but the road swing continues with a Friday night game in Buffalo and a Saturday night game on Long Island.
For the Buffalo game, I will look forward to the comments of the guys from BFLOBLOG, who will be in the HSBC Arena that night. It's good to know that those boys are all safe and sound after last week's suckerpunch of a snowstorm. The Sabres are undefeated as I write this, but will take on the always pesky Flyers on Tuesday night.
4 years ago