On Friday, the Hurricanes bested the visiting Lightning4-3 after a dominant third period. The win over their division foe, coupled with the loss by Atlanta (who was tied for second in the division) allows Carolina to expand its slim lead in the division.
The Florida Panthers won their non-divisional game and leapfrogged the Bolts and Thrash into second place. Carolina's lead over them is six points, but Carolina has a game in hand on the Kitties. Atlanta and Tampa are both seven points back, and both have one game in hand on the Canes.
The first thing to note about tonight's game is that Erik Cole did indeed return to the lineup. Last week in Florida, Cole re-injured his neck in a very scary collision with Tomas Vokoun. He missed four games. Carolina lost three of those, and looked really bad along the way. When Cole went over the boards for his first shift, about a minute into the game, the crowd went nuts. He immediately started throwing himself around, hitting guys and flying all over the ice. You forget how skilled he is in so many different areas when he's been out of the lineup.
Just 4:53 into the game, Cole assisted Erik Staal on the game's first goal. Cory Stillman took Cole's pass and fired on Holmqvist. From the right post, Staal hacked away at the rebound until he finally got it to go over the line. After a very long review, the on-ice call was allowed to stand and the Canes had a 1-0 lead. Stillman had the first assist, and Cole actually had the secondary assist.
The goal was the 100th of Staal's career, his 14th this season.
At 14:03, Paul Ranger tied it up for the visitors. He fired one in from above the left circle high on Cam's glove side. Michel Ouellet and Brad Richards assisted.
The first period was a stalemate on the scoreboard, and although Tampa had a SOG advantage, it seemed really evenly played.
The second period was all Bolts. At 12:08 of the second, that first line put on a clinic. They just passed and skated their way around the Carolina reargaurds as if they weren't even there. At the end of a particularly impressive passing sequence, Vaclav Prospal (who I refuse to call "Vinny" beat Ward to take the lead. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lacavalier had the helpers.
Bret Hediguchi made an awful play, getting completely pantsed by Lacavalier trying to clear the zone. Lacavalier took Hedican off the puck, sauntered in all alone, and buried it on Ward. St. Louis and Filip Kuba had the assists.
Carolina had a couple of power play opportunities in that second frame, but they were having a difficult time keeping it in the offensive zone. Forget about "applying pressure". That just wasn't happening.
Something happened in the room between the second and the third. I wish I knew what it was, but they came out completely different. For example, the Hurricanes could only muster three shots in the second, and they got off 12 SOG in the third period. Three of those found the back of the net.
Ray Whitney fired a wrister from the top of the left circle to put the Canes back in it at 1:56 of the second. Matt Cullen had the only assist.
Justin Viva Williams tied the score with a really amazing shot from the high slot that beat the "evil" Swede high. Rod Brind'Amour and Tim Gleason got the assists.
Old man Glenn Wesley broke the tie with his first goal of the season at 8:43. He fired one from the top of the left circle. I could swear that it had been tipped by Staal in the low slot, but apparently it went straight in. Erik Cole and Cory Stillman got the assists.
Carolina will travel to Washington DC tonight and will take on the Capitals on Saturday night. The Caps beat Philly in overtime, so both teams will travel a tiny bit, sleep a little while, and have an optional morning skate.
The "official" three stars were Eric Staal (third star), Cory Stillman(second star) and Erik Cole (first). I just can't ignore the effort by the visiting team, so the RBH three stars go:
THIRD STAR Martin St. Louis, TBL --- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 2 assists
FIRST STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- 2 assists, 5 hits, 3 takeaways
4 years ago