In the first period, they looked better than they have in a first period for quite some time. Instead of coming out flat-footed, they were very active, amassing 9 shots in the first 8 minutes of the game. They also kept play down in the Tampa end, which was a welcome change.
Eric Staal, who will be wearing #21 for the All-Star game, got the Canes off and running at the 5:32 mark with a power play marker. An Andrew Hutchinson blast from the blueline was handled by Marc Denis, but the rebound went to the doorstep, where Scott Walker and Staal were waiting. Walker had a whack or two at it, then Staal tucked it in from just off the left post. Officially, Staal from Walker and Hutchinson.
Vaclav Prospal, who I refuse to call "Vinny" scored a garbage goal at 6:51. Cam Ward overplayed a wrap chance by Marty St. Louis, and Prospal threw one in under Cam's pads. It should have been a really easy stop, but this has been Ward's MO this season. Officially, Prospal from St. Louis and Danny Boyle.
Staalsy made it 2-1 at 18:23 when he wristed one through a forest of Lightning legs from the low slot. I don't suppose Denis ever saw it, as two of his own players were screening him out. Officially, Staal from Scott Walker and Anton Babchuk.
The second period was action-packed and there were no penalties called. As a matter of fact, there were only a grand total of four penalties in this game. Two by the Bolts in the first period, one by the Canes in the first period. None in the second, none in the third. One by the Lightning in the overtime session, but it was not to the Hurricanes avail.
Ray Whitney gave the Canes a two goal cushion at 0:34. Dennis Seidenberg fired a wrister from the left point that was deflected in the low slot by Whitney, then perhaps off a d-man before going in the net. It's Whitney's 19th, and the assists were from Seidenberg and Viva.
At 3:22, Martin St. Louis showed why he strikes fear into any opposing team whenever he's on the ice. He didn't score, but he beautifully set up The Horseman at 3:22. Marty made a really fancy move as he crossed Carolina's blue line, drawing a double team from Mike Commodore and Seidenberg. Instead of firing a shot, he dropped a pass to the trailing LaCavalier, who wristed it by Ward. At the time, all I could say to my seat neighbors was "Wow. What a move." It was LaCavalier's 30th, from St.Louis and Paul Ranger.
Andrew Ladd gave the Canes a two-goal cushion again at 7:35. Anton Babchuk uncorked one of his patented heavy shots from the right point, and Ladd had his stick in the right place to re-direct it in the net from the slot. The impact of the shot shattered Ladd's stick, and he looked a little confused, but the goal's good. That's just his fourth goal of the season, and the helpers came from Babchuk and Viva.
Before the PA announcement could be made, Paul Ranger made it 4-3. From the left circle, he beat Cam Ward high on the glove side pretty badly. Ward had a clean look, but couldn't do anything about it. Nikita Alexeev and Eric Perrin assisted.
Then, it was clear that the wheels were falling off. Marty St. Louis tied it at the 12:02 mark. He was all alone on the doorstep, and was able to knock in the rebound from a Vaclav Prospal shot. Doug Janek got the other assist.
At 9:31 of the third, the Canes scored a goal that was very confusing. There was a bevy of humanity in front of the net when Scott Walker wristed a shot from above the left circle. As soon as the light came on, the jumbotron flashed the "It's STAAL good!" message that's always flashed when Eric Staal scores. It was only up there for a second, and I was pretty sure that it wasn't Staal, but it was hard to tell. After a few seconds of hesitation, a few dozen hats were thrown on the ice. However, the goal would be given to Andrew Ladd. The hockey gods chortled, and would ultimately punish the Canes for the false alarm hat trick celebration.
After the game, the scoring was changed again, and credit was given to Scott Walker. The deflection must have been off a Lightning stick. Officially, it's Scott Walker (his 16th) from Andrew Hutchinson and Andrew Ladd. There's been a bunch of plays where two Eric/ks tally points, but this is the first to my recollection where the two Andrews were involved.
It looked good heading down the stretch, and I was thinking that Staalsy would still get a chance for the hat trick if the Bolts pulled their keeper late. It never got to that. Filip Kuba tied it at 5 with less than three minutes to play. It was a bad, bad goal that Ward should have absolutely stopped. He fired a shot from the left circle with nobody in front, giving Ward a clean look. It beat him five hole. Prospal and Janek got the assists.
In the overtime period, the Canes had a great chance when Nolan Pratt took a delay of game (puck in crowd) penalty, but they couldn't convert the 4-on-3 chance. I knew going into the shootout that it was over. With our dismal failure at shootout this year, and the snipers on the Bolts bench, we didn't stand a chance.
Actually, Ward gave us a chance, stopping LaCavalier, Brad Richards and St. Louis. He couldn't stop Prospal, though, and none of Carolina's shooters could get the job done. Prospal's shootout goal won it, but he won't officially get credit for a GWG. I still think that's a disgrace.
I disagreed wholly with the three stars awarded in the arena, which were also the "official" three stars. They were: Martin St. Louis (third), Eric Staal (second) and Andrew Ladd (first). Of course that was all done when we thought that Ladd had two goals, but I never saw it that way anyway. Ladd/Walker scoring change doesn't effect my stars.
The RBH three stars:
Third Star Scott Walker, CAR --
Second Star Eric Staal, CAR -- 2 goals
First Star Vaclav Prospal, TBL -- 1 goal, 2 assists, shootout goal (winner)
The entire league will be off until Thursday to pause for the All-Star game. The Youngstars game and skills competition will be Tuesday night and the Allstar game will be on Wednesday night. All the coverage will be on