A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Canes right ship, defeat Habs

On Saturday night, the Canes went to the Bell Centre, and for the seventh time in a row, they emerged victorious. This time it was 5-3.

What a difference 48 hours makes! After Thursday's game, I lamented among other things, a terrible performance by special teams. Tonight, they were golden. The Canes had only two power play opportunities and converted them both. They were shorthanded three times, and killed all of them off. Not only that, but they scored a shorthanded goal. Whereas the special teams got an F- the other night, they got an A+ tonight.

All of the Carolina goals were kind of oddball. The third more so than the rest, but I'll get to that in a second.

During a four-on-four sequence following a fight the Habs got the first goal of the game from Sheldon Souray at 17:36. Tomas Plekanec and Mark Streit got the helpers.

During the first intermission, the team had a closed-door meeting and no interviews were given on tv. I'm not sure what was said, but whatever it was worked.

Off the opening second period faceoff, Michael Ryder was given the gate for hooking, and they were made to pay for it. Rod Brind'Amour found the puck on his stick as he camped out on the left post. He neatly pulled it to his backhand and lifted it high to Aebischer's stick side. Erik Cole and Eric Staal got the assists at 1:18 on the power play goal.

Ten minutes later, the tone changing goal. The Czech Condor was in the box for holding, but the Habs ended up hurting themselves. Mike Commodore made a fine defensive play in the Carolina zone causing a turnover and a two-on-one for Craig Adams and Chad LaRose. Craigasaurus Rex took the puck to the outside and fired a shot from the right circle. Aebischer got a pad on it, but Sharpie was there to knock it in out of mid-air. Officially, LaRose from Adams shorthanded at 11:30 of the second. It was just the third goal of the season for the hard working LaRose and just the fifth helper for Adams. It wasn't the game winner. It was, though --at least in my mind, the play of the game.

Barely a minute later, the Habs tied it up. Radik Bonk was on the doorstep to tip in a shot from Steve Begin. Mike Johnson got the secondary assist.

At 19:26 of the second came another crucial moment in the game. Mike Johnson ran Cam Ward and there was a delayed penalty. For a second, Tim Gleason considered giving Johnson the business, but thought better of it and wisely let the play run its course. As soon as the penalty began, the Canes got fruit from it. And it was the aforementioned extreme oddball goal. Try to follow me here.

Eric Staal fired a shot from above the left circle that went wide of Aebischer. Or perhaps it was tipped wide. At any rate, David Aebischer lost his stick after Micheal Komaserik swatted at the puck and ended up hitting Abby's stick. Off the end wall, Ray Whitney found the puck behind the cage. Again, Rod Brind'Amour was parked on the left post. Whitney made an amazing pass that went between Komaserik's legs right to Brind'Amour. From there, it was kind of like his first goal. He pulled it to his backhand, then lifted it over Aebischer. The stickless Abby sprawled out at the last second and the puck actually glanced off the top of his helmet and eventually went top shelf. He moaned a little to the refs about being interfered with, but it was his own teammate who knocked his stick out of his hand. Officially, it was a power play goal by Brind'Amour from Whitney and Staal at 19:50 of the second. Heading into the room, the Canes were up 3-2.

When leading after 40 minutes, the Canes were 20-0. Make it 21-0.

At 12:42 of the third, Erik "Hab Killa" Cole got what would turn out to be the game winner on a tremendous individual effort. After the Habs had partially cleared the puck following some prolonged pressure by the Canes, Cole burned them badly. The Canes brought it back in, and Cole used Mathieu Dandenault as a screen for his shot. He fired it between Dandenault's wickets from above the right circle, and Aebischer never had a chance. Mike Commodore and Glen Wesley got the assists.

Guy Carbonneau waited too long, in my opinion, to pull his goaltender. Then he did it wrong. He didn't insert the extra attacker until about 1:15 remained, and he immediately had to pay for it. Instead of waiting for his team to get the puck deep, he pulled the keeper after they had cleared their own zone. Eric Staal made a fine play at center ice to steal the puck and fire into the empty net for the security at 18:47. Aebischer wasn't even off the ice yet, but way too far out of net to turn back. A poor coaching choice and poor execution on the pulling of the keeper. That made the score 5-2, but it actually made a difference.

Tomas Plekanec was awarded a penalty shot at 19:07, and he made a nifty move to convert it and make the game a little closer.

5-3 was the final.

Everyone played really well, and I was pleasantly surprised that Justin Willams AND Bret Hedican played. It's hard to pick stars of the game when everyone played so well.

The "official" three stars went to Cam Ward (third), Bret Hedican (second) and Rod Brind'Amour (first). The FSN South stars went to Ward, Cole and Brind'Amour. I can't say those guys don't deserve it, but I feel the need to give a shout to CrAdams, who had the shorthanded assist and made some really fine defensive plays on the penalty kill.
The RBH three stars are a little different:
THIRD STAR Craig Adams, CAR -- 1 assist
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR -- 42 saves
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists

The Thrashers lost in regulation, and Bolts lost in overtime. These are both good for the Canes. Now Tampa and Atlanta are tied with 69 points. Tampa is in first by virtue of having a game in hand. Carolina is in third place, just two points back with 67. Tuesday's home game against the Dirty Birds will be HUGE.

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