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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Canes lose shootout, Walker

On Friday night, the Hurricanes traveled to Pittsburgh for the fifth of six straight road games. They should have won in regulation, but by the end of the night, they were just happy to get out of there alive. The one standings point earned by losing in the shootout was just a bonus.

Carolina got on the board very early. There was an early penalty, and Carolina was employing the five forward PP unit (Cullen, Whitney, Brind'Amour, Hamilton, Stillman). Ray Whitney slapped one in from above the left circle, beating Dany Sabourin high on the glove side, just under the crossbar. Matt Cullen and Rod Brind'Amour assisted on the power play goal.

Petr Sykora knotted it up at 18:58 on a really nifty move right in front of Cam Ward's cage. Sidney Crosby's wraparound attempt was foiled, but Sykora jumped on the rebound and backhanded it in. It was a very nifty play that beat Ward cleanly high on the glove side. Crosby and The Recchin' Ball got the helpers.

At 3:57 of the second, Trevor Letowski potted his first goal of the young season. Sabourin had just made a dandy of a save on a Brind'Amour/Williams breakaway, but he allowed the rebound to go into the low slot area. First, The Dude attempted a wrister from the forehand that was again blocked, but he recovered the rebound and backhanded it in. On that play, Sabourin had been knocked down and there could well have been a Goaltender Interference call, but I guess the contact wasn't deemed to be significant enough, or the referees thought that Rod Brind'Amour had been shoved into the crease area.

At 15:20, Viva gave the Canes a 3-1 lead, and it looked like the visitors were on their way to a nice win. Williams corralled a loose puck in neutral ice, then entered the Penguins zone with two Pens in front of him, three right behind him and no Hurricanes players anywhere near. From the high slot, he just put one on net, and it must have surprised the goaltender, because he was beaten badly by it. Again, high on the glove side. It looked like he never saw it. It was an unassisted goal for Williams.

The rest of the game did not go so well.

Soon after the Williams goal, Scott Walker dropped to his knees in front of the Carolina bench area and appeared to be woozy. There was no contact by any player directly preceding his collapse, but there was speculation that it was a delayed reaction to a collision with Jarkko Ruutu earlier in the game. At first it was confusing, then worrisome, then scary. He stayed there on his knees for several moments, obviously having difficulty moving and breathing. In addition to the entire Hurricanes medical staff, members of the Penguins staff were tending to him. It got even scarier when a stretcher was brought out. Ultimately, he left the ice the same way Erik Cole left that very same ice back in March of 2006. One arm dangling, bent over, gliding (not striding). Not exactly "under his own power".

Walker was held in a Pittsburgh hospital, and according to a team spokesman, x-rays and CT scans were "clear". We still don't know much about it, but the team is referring to Walker's injury as a "torso injury". Some speculation is that it might have something to do with some cartilage. Although Walker traveled with the team to Philadelphia, he is in "a great deal of pain", and will not play.

As if that wasn't enough of a bad break, Carolina got another at 17:54 of the second. The Pens were going hard to the net, and Adam Hall's backhand wrister from close range was kicked aside by Ward. Justin Williams was there to gather the puck, but unfortunately, he did his impersonation of Bryan McCabe, and he put it in his own net instead of directing it to the corner. Officially, it was Hall, with assists from Ruutu and Maxime Talbot. Unofficially, it was Williams committing the Tevvy.

Before Carolina could regroup, or even limp into the locker room with a one goal lead, Sykora made it all even. During a five-on-three power play, Sergei Gonchar unleashed a bomb from the high slot. Sykora was there to tuck in the rebound from just off the right post. Game tied. Gonchar and Sidney Crosby with the helpers.

Nothing in the third.

Pittsburgh elected to go first in the shootout.
Eric Christensen scored.
Matt Cullen scored.
Petr Sykora scored.
Jeff Hamilton scored a really nasty one.
Sidney Crosby scored.
Ray Whitney put the puck right in Sabourin's glove.

The "official" three stars went to Justin Williams (third), Sidney Crosby (second) and Petr Sykora (first). I don't see it that way. Both goaltenders played very well, and both had to make some circus-style saves. Especially Sabourin. That shouldn't go unnoticed.
The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Justin Williams, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist (plus a Tevvy)
SECOND STAR Dany Sabourin, PIT --- 32 saves, win.
FIRST STAR Petr Sykora, PIT --- 2 goals (plus a successful shootout attempt).

Although Carolina lost a key player for an indeterminant amount of time, and they didn't win the game, they still emerged with a point. Also, a positive thing that can be taken away from this game is that the Canes have already had twice as many successful shootout attempts (2) as they did all of last season (1). Jeff Hamilton proved to us why the Canes brought him here. His shootout goal was a thing of beauty.

Pittsburgh travels to Washington tonight. Carolina travels to Philly. 7:30. No TV.

More details about tonight's matchup later. Plus, more about the "house of horrors" that Mellon Arena has become.

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