On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes weren't at their best, but fortunately they were good enough to beat the Panthers 4-2. The win extends their streak to five games, but they were unable to pick up ground in either the Southeast Division or the Eastern Conference. Atlanta and Buffalo both won their games as well.
4:18 into the first period, Nathan Horton took advantage of some sloppy play by the Canes. He came through the right circle hard to the net and beat Cam Ward easily. Bryan Allen and Steve Montador got the assists. Craig Adams sort of messed it up by giving up on the play and bailing out in neutral ice. Bret Hedican was the only defenseman back, and he couldn't get over in time to cover Horton.
Carolina wasn't getting many chances in the second, and it looked like we might be in for a long night. At 15:40, however, Viva broke in on Alex Auld with Eric Staal trailing. He came down the left side towards the net, faked a move to the backhand, hesitated ever so slightly, then wristed one in off the right post. Nic Wallin and Eric Staal got the assists. The goal, his seventh in his last seven games, stretched his points streak to eight games and his goal streak to four games. During the eight game streak, he's notched nine points (7/2). He's on pace for a 39 goal season, which would be a new career best.
As the third period began, the Canes were enjoying a four-on-three sequence, and they used it to their advantage. At 0:50 of the final frame, Rod Brind'Amour gave the home team the lead for good. From the top of the right circle, Eric Staal threw a pass in the Captain's skates down in the low slot. The "pass" bounced off Brindy's skate and in the goal. At first it looked like he had backhanded it in, but when they reviewed it, I knew it must have gone in off the skate. The determination was that there wasn't a kicking motion, so the goal was allowed to stand. Staal had the primary assist, and Ray Whitney the second.
At 12:15, Scott Walker worked really hard to extend the lead to 3-1. He came through the slot on a semi-break and although he didn't have the easiest time of it, he beat Auld on what would eventually be the game winner. Trevor Letowski and Anton Babchuk got the assists.
Nathan Horton, who had two assists versus the Canes on Saturday night, got his second goal of the night at 15:49. With four points in the last two games, Horton probably wishes he could play against the Canes every night. Olli "I look like a child molester" Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester got the assists.
With Alex Auld pulled for an extra attacker, Cory Stillman worked patiently to get an empty net goal at 19:20. It was his first goal of the season, and he now has eight points in just seven games played. He had the puck down on the Carolina blue line, and worked his way out to center ice, where a lot of less patient guys would have fired a shot. He worked his way through some traffic, had drawn a penalty, but he was able to hit the bullseye with a backhand from the Panthers blue line. Glen Wesley had the lone helper.
The first period was fairly bad. The second was terrible. Aside from the Viva goal, nothing went right. The Canes couldn't apply any pressure, couldn't maintain possession, and couldn't get any shots off. Also, after delivering a huge check on Steve Montador behind the Florida goal, Craig Adams was engaged by Montador. After some dancing and disrobing, CrAdams went on to get his butt whipped. Montador delivered a few consecutive right jabs, and CrAdams couldn't even come close to landing a punch.
During the third, though, everything went right. The Canes were able to dominate puck possession and puck position, keeping it deep in the Florida zone for extended periods.
Inside the arena, the three stars went to Nathan Horton (third), Eric Staal (second) and Viva (first). The "official" stars went to Horton, Cole and Viva. I very nearly called them the same way the arena did, but I thought Horton was better than that, and that Viva wasn't quite deserving of the first star. The RBH three stars, then, are:
Third Star: Justin Williams, CAR. goal
Second Star: Nathan Horton, FLA. 2 goals
First Star: Eric Staal, CAR. 2 assists
Carolina has won the fifth game in a row, and as I predicted, Viva had a good game.
The going is about to get really rough for a short period of time. The Canes will have their 11th back-to-back this weekend, and it sure isn't a pretty one. On Thursday, the Canes will go to the HSBC Arena to take on the red-hot Sabres. Then they'll come right back home to host the glowing hot Ducks on Friday. The two best teams in hockey on consecutive nights. Fortunately, in the second half of the season, the Canes will only have 4 of these back-to-back situations.
By contrast, the Sabres have only had five back-to-back situations thus far and will have ten of them in the "second half". I'd much rather have it our way.
4 years ago