On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes picked up their second win in a row and handed the Flyers their seventh loss in a row 2-1. The losing skid sets a new benchmark in futility for the Orange and Black. It might not end any time soon, as their next game is in Montréal on Thursday night.
Elsewhere, the Caps lost, which allowed the Canes to leapfrog them into second place in the Southeast Division. Division leader Atlanta won their game in a shootout, maintaining a six point cushion over the Canes. Yeah. It's wicked early to think about the playoffs already.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Rod Brind'Amour was back in the lineup tonight, and no worse for the wear. He logged more than 25 minutes of ice time and took 31 of the team's 61 faceoffs. He was, actually, a little below his normal 60% winning per centage, but we'll gladly take his 54%. Since he was able to play, there was no need to recall Dave Gove or Ryan Bayda.
The story of the night, though, was Carolina's defensemen. They were sharp. In particular, Anton Babchuk had a great game. Defensively, he had two blocked shots and a number of timely poke-checks. Offensively, he did a great job of joining the rush, and ended up with the game-winning goal.
Carolina was buzzing around the net all game long, and if not for a heroic effort by Antero Nittymaki, it might have been 8-1. Erik Cole had a number of good chances, and poor Ray Whitney hit the post twice, and was robbed a couple of times. He picked up an assist on Caroina's first goal, but had nothing else to show for his great effort.
At 12:41 of the first, Viva was on the right side of the net to tip in a point blast from Andrew Hutchinson. The "shot" was well off net, but Viva was in the perfect place to lift it up and over Nittymaki. Ray Whitney picked up the secondary assist. Viva now has a five game point streak, and is on pace for a 77 point (35/42) season. Last season, his 76 points landed him in 36th place in the League in scoring. Somehow, he's still a player that nobody knows.
Early in the second period, Carolina decided to make it FIVE GAMES IN A ROW with one of those delaying the game (puck in crowd) penalties. This time Mike Commodore was the culprit. Scott Cason hates this rule, and one of these days, we'll get a discussion going over at SESO about this. I don't hate the rule in principle. I hate the way it's adjudicated. I think this is where Cason has issue: I think there out to be some discretionary wiggle room for the refs. They have a lot of wiggle room with the enforcement of goaltender interference, or with the awarding of penalty shots. I wish they had the same for this. Actually, I've got a whole different proposal, but that's for another post. The thing is that the players know that the rule is there and that the refs have to enforce it. There's no point in trying those cute bank passes off the glass if you're a defenseman with marginal puckhandling skills.
The penalty ended up being no harm because the Flyers couldn't stay out of the box in the second period, and they were only able to enjoy one minute of the resultant power play before they made it four-on-four hockey. During this segment, Anton Babchuk showed flashes of offensive brilliance in beating Nittymaki. From the right point, Babs faked a slap shot, forced Nittymaki to come way out, and beat him badly high on the glove side. Erik Cole got the only assist.
At 14:05 of the third, Simon Gagne ended Cam Ward's shuotout bid by re-directing a left circle blast from Randy Jones. Joni Pitkanen got the second assist.
Philly was unable to knot it up, nor was Carolina able to pot an empty net goal after Nittymaki was lifted.
The "official" three stars went to Anton Babchuk (third), Antero Nittymaki (second) and Viva(first). I don't quite see it that way. The RBH three stars:
Third Star Ray Whitney, CAR. 1 assist
Second Star Antero Nittymaki, PHI. 40 saves
First Star Anton Babchuk, CAR. game winning goal
Carolina is off until Friday, when the Islanders come to town.
3 years ago