On Saturday night, the Penguins came to Raleigh for a game that had quite a lot of buzz. Before the game, there were quite a few little story lines developing. Staal v Staal. Cole v Orpik. Our first look at Malkin. What could have been quite explosive ended up having no drama at all. The Canes ran away with a 6-2 victory, and Jordan Staal now owes his older brother two Gatorades. The first time these two teams played, Eric and Jordan wagered a Gatorade on the outcome of the game. Eric won, and I think it's safe to assume that he offered a "double or nothing" bet.
Because the Pens had played on Friday night, Jocelyn Thibault got the start between the pipes. Carolina, who has already played five sets of back-to-back games, would not offer any sympathy in that department.
While there was never any rough stuff with Orpik, he got a not-so-warm welcome from the Raleigh faithful. The first time he stepped on the ice, and every single time he touched the puck, he was greeted with a thunderous chorus of boos.
At around the 7:00 mark of the first period, a fight erupted that had nothing to do with Orpik. Mike Commodore and Chris Thorburn. Call it a tone-setter, call it a tension breaker, call it "getting that out of the way". Call it whatever you want, but there was no more of that for the rest of the game.
Viva got the game's first goal at 12:51 while Carolina was enjoying a five-on-three sequence. Brind'Amour fired a backhand shot at Jocelyn Thibault that was blocked, but Williams was there to stuff in the rebound. Erik Cole got the secondary assist. That assist was the 100th of Cole's NHL career.
At 17:41, Ray "The Wizard" Whitney made it 2-0. Erik Cole set him up from behind the net for a wrister from the low slot. Cole got one assist ans Commy got the other.
Just 24 seconds into the second frame, the Pens' Sergei Gonchar, who is arguably their best defenseman, and a crucial penalty killer, took a penalty for roughing. This gave the Canes a power play and a fresh sheet of ice. They took advantage when Rod Brind'Amour finished a beautiful play by tipping one past Thibault at 1:29. Eric Staal and Scotty "Remo" Walker had the assists. On that particular play, Pittsburgh looked like a tired team. That play was way too easy. Staal made a nifty pass to Brind'Amour, who was all alone in the low slot for the easy tip-in. It looked like one of those plays you run in practice like a billion times. This is why you run it so much. We had no way of knowing it at the time, but this turned out to be the game winning goal.
Just when we thought it was looking like a romp, it started to get interesting. John Leclair scored one for the Pens at the 3:48 mark, ending Cam Ward's shutout streak at 84 minutes 48 seconds. "Avi" Tanabe was absolutely terrible on that play. It started when he couldn't handle a pass down in the Pens zone, then lost a footrace with LeClair, on whom he had a four stride head start. After the Pens had control of the puck in the Canes zone, Tanabe played some form of matador defence that you would expect to see in a 40 and over rec league. Surprisingly, it was Leclair's first goal of the season. Jarkko Ruutu (whose name I just love to say) got the only assist.
At 16:42, our old pal The Recchin' Ball scored another one for the Pens to make it really interesting. Avi Tanabe was in the box as the play was being set up, but the penalty expired before the goal. Technically, it's an even strength goal, but Tanabe wasn't back in the play yet, and his stupid lazy holding penalty gave the Pens the power play opportunity. Nils Ekman and Dominic Moore got the assists. Recchi got a really nice ovation, as everyone in the barn was glad to see him.
Early in the third, there was a lot of drama, but nothing to do with Cole/Orpik. The Penguins were applying a lot of pressure down in Carolina's end, and in a mad scramble, it looked like they had scored a goal. The red light never went on, and the referee was emphatically waving it off, but from my POV, directly behind the net, it looked like it might have been in. The game wasn't on teevee here, and I can't find a replay of it, but it looked to the naked eye like Ward made a stop from behind the line, then pulled it back over the line. I dunno. Anyway, play continued until a Penguins penalty was committed about a minute later. By NHL rule this is the way it has to be done. They can't review the goal situation until the next stoppage of play. We were all wondering what would have happened if they called it a goal. Would they re-set the clock and cancel the penalty? What if Carolina had scored before a play stoppage? After a looooooong review, during which Rod Brind'Amour didn't look happy, they let the on-ice call stand: no goal.
Eric Belanger, who has been a very hard working guy lately got a goal at 8:00 of the third to give us some breathing room. From a very sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle, he threw it at the net, and it kind of surprised Thibault. I thought at first that it must have glanced in off a defenseman's skate or something, but it was just that Thibault was looking for a pass and was horribly beaten. I think it actually went behind him on the short side, but he was looking at Anton Babchuk, who was streaking down the right side as part of a 3-on-2 break.
At 16:42, Eric Staal interfered with a Penguins player, and was sent to the box. In a strange way, this helped the Canes. Michel Therrien decided to go the unorthodox route and pull his goaltender for a six-on-four power play with 2:30 still to play. As soon as Thibault went to the bench, the Pens turned the puck over in neutral ice and Kevyn Adams hit the bulls eye from the top of the right circle for the shorthanded marker. Two seasons ago, K-Ads was third in the league with five shorties. This was his first so far this season.
As if this was a game I was playing on NHL '04, the Canes scored another shorty on the same penalty. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose, who is one of my favorite players because of his hard work, got one past Thibault at 18:28. Maybe the Pens had given up hope, but they turned it over in the Canes zone, and Carolina was off on a two-on-one shorthanded break. Trevor "The Dude" Letowski fed Sharpie for a one-timer from the top of the left circle. The only Penguins skater back on the play was Orpik, who had a really rough night. Anton Babchuk got the secondary assist
Mike Commodore, who doesn't get nearly enough love, did a sensational job neutralizing the big Malkin. Malkin was only able to get two shots off, and neither of them was of the "quality" variety. He spent most of his night fighting off Commodore. Mad props to Commy on that. Added to that, Commodore had two assists.
Sid the Kid had some great chances, but Ward rose to the occasion every time.
Despite having a piecemeal defensive corps in front of him, Ward really hasn't had to work that hard in the past few games. They're minimizing quality chances, which makes life easier. For the third straight game, Wardo has faced exactly 20 shots. That sounds like a pretty good day at the office if you ask me.
The "official" three stars went to Cole (3rd), Brindy (2nd) and Whitney (1st). I don't get that.
With six different goal scorers, and 13 different players with at least one point, it's a little more difficult than most nights. The RBH stars of the game:
Third Star Rod Brind'Amour, CAR. 1 goal, 1 assist, GWG
Second Star Mike Commodore, CAR. 2 assists, stellar defense, +3
First Star Erik Cole, CAR. 2 assists, 6 hits
The Tevvy, which hasn't really been given out at all this season, definitely goes to "Avi" Tanabe, who finished with a -2.
4 years ago