Scott Walker opened the scoring at 5:22 of the first. After two Rangers turnovers deep in their own end, Walker was in on a mini-break and beat Henrik Lundqvist from the low slot. Matt Cullen and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose had the helpers.
After a particularly nice penalty kill, the Canes made it 2-0 when Matt Cullen beat Lundqvist from the top of the crease. Although Cullen had two guys draped all over him, Cory Stillman played the part of Tom Brady to Cully's Randy Moss. He threaded the needle and Cully simply tapped it in. Time of the goal was 19:45.
There was no scoring in the second. The Rangers had the majority of the scoring chances, and Cam Ward looked very sharp turning them all away. More importantly, both Frantisek Kaberle and Bret Hedican played very responsibly in their own zone. I have routinely called both of these guys out all season, and I've been clamoring for the Canes to ship Kaberle out of here. Those two really stepped up. Dennis Seidenberg also played very well in the second, blocking shots and dishing out hits.
The third period was again all Canes.
There were a few questionable calls each way in the third frame. One of them put David Tanabe in the box for tripping after he made a great recovery to thwart a breakaway chance by the Rangers. Although he got to the puck before the player, the referee saw it another way and put Snuggles in the box to feel shame for two minutes.
All the same, there was justice. The hockey gods made sure that the tables were turned. Snuggles came out of the box to meet a rink-wide pass, and he was in all alone on Lundqvist. Tanabe looked like Matt Cullen out there, forcing the goaltender to guess glove side, then beating him badly on the blocker side. Dennis "Baron Von" Seidenberg had the only assist. Time of the goal was 11:30.
The icing on the cake came at 13:56. Cory Stillman tapped one in after a great individual effort. He worked the puck behind the net, then found Williams, who fed Staal out front. Lundqvist answered the bell, but Stillman was back around front to knock the rebound in. Viva and Staal had the assists.
Down the stretch, there wasn't much gas left in the Rangers' tank and Carolina pretty much waited out the final buzzer.
This was the first game of the season between these two teams, so it was the first time Eric and Marc Staal played against each other. With about one minute to play, they got in a little jostling bout down in the corner. It was probably just for the sake of doing it.
This was polar opposite from Saturday's heartless effort up in Lackawanna. Thanks very much to the Sabres for getting the Canes back in shape.
Seriously, though, coach Laviolette shook up all of the forward lines and the defense pairings. It worked like a charm. I suppose it was a combination of the ass-whipping and the line changes. Whatever it was, it did the trick.
The "official" three stars were Matt Cullen (third), Cam Ward (second) and Cory Stillman (first). I have a hard time disputing that.
The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- 2 assists, 71% faceoff (5/7)
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 28 saves, shutout
FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 2 goals
Honorary mention I goes to Eric Staal. He had an assist and led all players with 6 hits.
Honorary mention II goes to every single defenseman. 11 blocked shots. Good PK. Very responsible play all the way around. And David effing Tanabe shed the "Avi" moniker by having his best game of the season.
This was a complete game. The only time all season that Carolina has played a 60 minute game. This feels so good compared to the debacle that Saturday night was.
The five game road trip will pause for a few days. The Canes play again on Thursday in the City of Tampa. In the interim, they'll return to Raleigh for a quick visit.