On Friday night, the Canes outplayed the Capitals and won the game 4-1. Meanwhile, the first place Thrashers lost to the Stars. After having won four of their last five games and getting some help from the Thrashers, the Canes have now moved to within two points of Atlanta.
Tonight, the Thrashers will be in Montréal and the Canes will be hosting the Stars. If things go right, the Canes could move into first place.
As expected, the Canes started John "Crackers" Grahame between the pipes, and this made a few people nervous. After all, he had been on the shelf for nearly a month and hasn't played that well in limited starts.
There was no scoring until late in the second frame. Just 43 seconds into the Canes fourth power play sequence, they finally lit the lamp. Andrew "Hot Dog with Cheese" Hutchinson fired a point shot through traffic that Kolzig blocked. Erik Cole was in close to get the rebound, and he had two cracks at it before slipping a backhander past Kolzig on the glove side. Hutchinson got the first assist and Brind'Amour got the second.
At 16:35, the Canes cashed in on another power play chance. This time it was 42 seconds into a Donald Brashear holding penalty. On a very tight tic-tac-toe play, Ray Whitney passed to Brindy behind the net. He and Erik Cole played give-and-go, and Brindy easily beat Kolzig from the right side of the net on the short side. Cole got the first assist and Whitney the other.
At 5:33 of the third, the Canes made it 3-0 with a combination of the same three players. Brind'Amour had drawn a double team near the top of the right circle. He made a beautiful tape-to-tape pass to Whitters, who was camped out on the left dot. The Wizard one-timed it in. I obviously have the Canes feed here, but the NHL.com highlights used the Caps feed, and even their announcers couldn't stop gushing about the quality of that Brind'Amour pass. Erik Cole got the second assist.
Richard Zednik ended Crackers' shutout bid at 9:28 of the third. For once this season, that goal had nothing to do with Avi Tanabe. Snuggles wasn't on the ice, nor in the penalty box. He can't be blamed for this one. Actually, nobody can be blamed. It was just a good goal. The Big Letowski was in the box for holding the stick, and the Caps were moving the puck well on their power play. Ben Clymer fired a blue line shot that was well off the mark, but re-directed by Zednik on the right side of the cage. There wasn't really anything Grahame could have done. Kris Beech got the secondary assist on the power play goal.
The Captain put the game out of reach at 18:13. Erik Cole centered a pass from the bottom of the left circle to Brindy, who was just hanging out in the goal mouth. Brindy simply tipped it in, and that was the cue for the fat lady. Cole got the first assist and Whitney got the second.
The "official" three stars were given to Ray Whitney (third), Erik Cole (second) and Brindy. Mine are not much different than that.
The RBH three stars:
Third Star John Grahame, CAR. 21 saves, first win of season.
Second Star Erik Cole, CAR. 1 goal, 3 assists.
First Star Rod Brind'Amour, CAR. 2 goals, 2 assists.
There is quite a lot of speculation that defenseman Tim Gleason will be back in the lineup tonight. There's also a chance that defeneseman Nic Wallin will be back. Either would be good. Both would be great. We'd just like to be taken out of the misery we've been experiencing thanks to the poor play of David (aka Avi) Tanabe. Frantisek Kaberle is still a long way off. The return of these two defensemen brings up a tough question. What to do with Anton Babchuk? Babs has been playing extremely well and has responded brilliantly to his sudden increase in icetime and responsibility. I hope he is rewarded with a continuing spot on the every night roster. Tanabe obviously goes to the press box or preferably to Albany.
We'll be hosting the Stars tonight. I won't be using my ticket, and it isn't on teevee, so I'll have to rely on NHL.com highlights. Some stuff came up at work that requires my attention. The Canes offer an "unused ticket trade-in" program which will allow me to simply swap tonight's ticket for a ticket to a game not in my 24-game package.
3 years ago