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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Flames 4 - Canes 3

On Friday night, Carolina set a new season mark with its third consecutive loss. A tired but red-hot Calgary team came in here one night after beating Tampa 9-6 and they beat the home team 4-3.
The Flames are four games into a six game road trip and they have taken all eight available points. On the other hand, Carolina has won just two games all month. The road for Carolina gets harder before it gets easier. Tonight they will be in Philadelphia. The Flyers have won all three previous meetings between the two teams.

Here's how it went down on Friday:
Kristian Huselius opened the scoring at 4:56 of the first. After a center ice turnover by Trevor Letowski, he made a really nifty shake-n-bake maneuver at the Carolina blue line and had a virtual breakaway on Cam Ward. Wardo was mesmerized by the shaking and baking, and he had no chance to make the save. Daymond Langkow had the only assist.

Chad LaRose got a fluky goal at 5:53 to bring the Canes back in it. After Letowski forced a Flames giveaway deep in their own zone, Matt Cullen fired a shot well wide right of the net. The rebound off the end wall went right to Sharpie near the inside hash marks of the left circle. He fumbled the puck a bit, then shot a backhander that sort of handcuffed Kiprusoff and beat him short side. Cullen and Letowski had the assists.

After one, the score remained 1-1. Kristian Huselius was the best player on the ice for either team. He got to use that same shake-n-bake move later in the period, but didn't get a scoring chance out of it. He was pretty active in the Carolina zone for what seemed like the entire period.

Carolina looked much better through one than they had looked all game on Wednesday. They had lots of zip, they were finishing checks on both ends of the ice and they were getting lots of shots on net. The count at the first intermission was 16-7 in favor of the Canes.

At 14:09 of the second, the Flames got a hard-earned goal from Dustin Boyd. It was just his second marker of the season. Boyd took a pass near the top of the crease, then made some smooth puck handling, pulling the puck about seven feet from his forehand to his backhand. By then, Cam Ward was diving for the puck, and he just lifted it it. The whole thing was started when Nic Wallin made a lame clearing attempt. Instead of firing it off the glass, or sending it hard up the middle, he sent it softly up the middle. Adrian Aucoin had the only assist.

At 15:22, Carolina scored another fluky goal. Mikka Kiprusoff looked a shaky and a little confused all night. His rebound control was horrible and he looked a little bit like he was having a hard time locating the puck on a few shots. This time was no different. Matt Cullen started a rush from the Carolina end that resulted in a Craig Adams shot from the top of the right circle. Kiprusoff got a pad on it, but it snuck through his five hole and just barely had enough momentum to cross the goal line. It took place directly in front of me, and it seemed like it was in ultra-slow motion as the puck inched its way through open space. This was CrAdams' first point of the season. Tim Gleason and Matt Cullen got the assists.

Carolina again had the advantage in shots on goal and the total after two was 27-16.

Literally seconds after I started to think "Geez, I haven't even noticed Iggy or Phaneuf all night long" I was punished for thinking it. Jarome Iginla fired a slapshot from the top of the right circle that beat Ward cleanly high on the blocker side. Glen Wesley was too busy playing soft defense to deny the shooting lane and the one-time Rocket Richard winner took advantage of the time and space. The power play marker at 0:25 of the second was Iggy's 21st goal of the season. Aucoin and Dion Phaneuf assisted.

Matt Cullen made a sweet play at 7:19 of the third to once again level the score. Way down in the Carolina end, he pressured Alex Tanguay into a turnover, then raced up ice, passed to Rod Brind'Amour along the wall on the right side and took the return pass at the blue line. He made the Flames defensemen Anders Eriksson and Dion Phaneuf look pretty silly. Eriksson waved at him and Phaneuf did nothing at all as Cullen raced past every Flames player and wristed one over the glove hand of Kiprusoff. Kipper was down and out after guessing that Cullen would go blocker side. The power play marker was Cullen's seventh goal of the season. Brind'Amour got the only assist.

At 11:48, Dion Phaneuf wristed one in from the top of the left circle after Matthew Lombardi had won the offensive zone faceoff.

That's how the game ended. It was frustrating to lose, but I wasn't upset. They played hard against a good team and gave a much, much better effort than on Wednesday. However, there continues to be a problem with Eric Staal. He has been a non-factor too many nights. He's been invisible most nights. Erik Cole had a much better game on Friday. He had some chances, he made some things happen. He didn't register a point, but I noticed him. I can't say the same about Staal. He really has to fix his level of intensity.

Too many nights lately, Carolina's best player has been Dennis Seidenberg or Chad LaRose or (gasp) David Tanabe. This is unacceptable. They need for their best player to be their stars. Night in and night out. Calgary's best players on Friday were simply the best players on their team. Phaneuf, Iginla, Huselius, Langkow all showed up. Tanguay didn't, but when four of your five best players "show up", that's fine. Carolina had just one of their best players show up -- Matt Cullen.

With a goal and two assists, Matt Cullen was far and away Carolina's best player. In fact, I think he was the best player for either team.

The "official" three stars are a bit of a head-scratcher for me. They went Kiprusoff (third), Cullen (second) and Phaneuf (first). Kipper made 33 saves and earned the win, but I think he actually had a bad night. His defense bailed him out when he was giving up juicy rebounds. Phaneuf was good, but I don't think he should get the first star just for scoring the game winner. I was excited about getting to see him play, halfway expecting to witness one of his textbook Phaneufs, laying one of our players out. He only had one hit in the game, and it wasn't a Phaneuf.

Anyway, the RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Dion Phaneuf, CGY -- GWG, 1 assist
SECOND STAR Kristian Huselius, CGY -- 1 goal
FIRST STAR Matt Cullen, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists, 4 takeaways.

Carolina will be in the City of Brotherly Love tonight hoping to avoid a series sweep by the Flyers. Scott Walker's suspension is over and he will be back in the lineup. Mike Commodore and his broken finger do not figure to be in the lineup tonight.

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