On Friday night, the Canes continued their four city eight day road trip through the Northwest Division by visiting Vancouver for the first time since December 14, 2003. They also continued their losing ways, falling to the Nucks 4-3 in overtime.
With Rod Brind'Amour out of the lineup with a groin injury and Cory Stillman's return delayed by a tweaked knee, the boys had to dig deep, and they simply didn't dig deep enough. First of all, the Canes were forced to dress seven defensemen, and for some reason the seventh was Avi Tanabe rather than Andrew Hutchinson. The three minutes of overtime notwithstanding, the forwards all saw increased ice time to make up for the absence of the Captain. The seventh defenseman obviously absorbs most of that, but then there's Trevor Letowski, who averages 11:25 of ice time, but saw 15:24 last night.
Eric Staal, who averages just over 13 faceoffs taken per game, had to take 24 faceoffs last night. Trevor Letowski, who barely takes one per game, had to take 13. Kevyn Adams, who takes 6 per game, was forced to take some key faceoffs while the Canes were perpetually short handed. Brind'Amour is one of the best in the business at taking faceoffs, normally winning about 60% of them. Last night, the Canes were collectively 43%. Last winter, this argument was beat into the ground around the blogosphere, but I still contend that winning faceoffs is a crucial element of success.
Jan Bulis started the scoring for the Nucks at 10:50 of the first. With Nic Wallin gone for tripping, the Nucks had a really nice-looking power play, ending with Bulis throwing in a really nifty backhander from the goal mouth. Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison assisted.
In the second, the Canes had a parade of guys headed to the penalty box, and the Nucks made them pay for it. Marc Chouinard picked up some loose change and beat Ward badly at 17:41. Yannick Tremblay and Morrison assisted on the power play goal.
Tremblay, who hadn't played an NHL game since the 2003-04 season, widened the Nucks lead at the 5:17 mark of the third with yet ANOTHER power play goal. He fired a one-time blast from above the left circle that found its way through and past Ward. Morrison and Naslund got the assists.
Finally, at 5:56, the Canes came out of their slumber and Craig "Hands of Feet" Adams scored for the second consecutive game. From behind the net, Eric Staal made a really amazing no-look, behind-the-back pass to CrAdams, who had snuck onto the front porch from the left circle. Yo Luongo couldn't stop the point-blank shot, and his shutout attempt was ended. Erik Cole got the other assist.
After a five-on-three advantage for the Canes had expired, there was still a little bit of normal power play, during which Erik Cole was able to bring the Canes to within one goal. The Nucks were attempting to make a short-handed line change, but didn't get the puck far enough in. The Canes came in with a three-on-one break, and Cole buried one from the low slot at 15:42. And by "buried one", I mean that his shot hit the right post, then Luongo's back, then went in. Ray Whitney and Viva assisted on the power play marker.
At 17:14, Mike Commodore brought the Canes all the way back. He fired a wrister from the right faceoff dot, and Luongo got most of it, but it snuck its way through his pads on the glove side and behind him before he knew where it was. Cole and Bret Hedican got the helpers.
As regulation expired, the Canes knew they would get at least one point, which is a small victory considering how they'd played the previous two nights.
2:16 into the overtime period, Scott Walker was guilty of delaying the game by inadvertently sending the puck over the glass from the Carolina zone. It was the second time he'd done that, and it proved to be costly. With a four-on-three power play, and a TON of open ice, the Nucks spread it around nicely, and Daniel Sedin got the easy game winner at 3:02 with assists from his brother and Tremblay. On that play, the Nucks almost lost the zone, and if you watch the NHL.com highlight, the far linesman makes the normal "on-side" signal while the near linesman makes some weird fist-pumping gesture, almost like he was about to call offside. Anyway, it wasn't offside, but I don't know what that gesture was. Henrik found Daniel all alone in the low slot, and he had an easy time beating Ward.
The Nucks were 4-9 on their power play, which is something the Canes can't be happy about, and the Canes, who had gone five games without a power play goal, went 1-7. They can't be happy about that either. Getting one standings point is small consolation, but the way they snapped to in the late stages of the game is somewhat promising. The way Carolina was the better five-on-five team is also somewhat promising. However, the special teams have to get better, and can't parade to the penalty box the way they did in the second period.
Yo Luongo was great for the Nucks. He made some really sensational saves look easy, and he turned aside a penalty shot from Eric Staal in the second period. Incidentally, I didn't agree with the awarding of a penalty shot, but any time you're given one, you gotta be happy to take it.
It was great to see Erik Cole snap out of his slump. A goal and two assists earned him one of the stars.
The "official" stars went to Daniel Sedin (third), Cole (second) and Morrison (first). If I remember correctly, the FSN South stars went to Luongo (third), Mike Commodore (second) and Sedin (first).
I saw it a little differently. The RBH three stars:
Third Star Roberto Luongo, VAN. 36 saves, PS save.
Second Star Erik Cole, CAR. Goal, 2 assists, 4 hits, +2
First Star Yannick Tremblay, VAN. Goal, 2 assists.
Carolina will travel today, then have Sunday off before taking on the Avs on Monday night. We might see Brind'Amour, but probably not Stillman. With all these injuries, I wouldn't mind seeing Keith Aucoin called up from Albany.
4 years ago