The last time the Oilers came to town, I was in the RBC Center for game seven. At the end of it all, I cried like a little girl. Tonight, I cried again.
I'm not kidding.
It was a release of tension. With their poor play lately, I was on the brink of smashing my teevee or something else dumb. This big big win let it all out. It was great.
Carolina is almost to the point where all of their players are back from injuries and illness. Their absences had something to do with Carolina's poor play. Now their job will be to feed off of tonight's huge win and keep playing like they did.
The most important thing as far as the trajectory of the team is concerned is that Eric Staal found some swagger. He broke through with a HUGE game and played with confidence. Frankly, we haven't seen Staal or any of the big-name players display any confidence lately.
It all started at 6:08 of the first. Rod Brind'Amour nailed a one-timer from above the left circle and showed a rare display of emotion afterwards. Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole got the assists.
Just 3:09 into the second period, Patrick Thoresen tapped a loose puck to make it 1-1. Sam Gagner's shot hit the right goalpost, then Cam Ward's back, then trickled towards the goal line. Thoresen pounced on it before Nic Wallin could sweep it away. Gagner and Andrew Cogliano got the helpers.
Tim Gleason blasted a shot from the right point at 15:43 of the second that found its way past Mathieu Garon. Brind'Amour and Andrew Ladd got the helpers. For the first time in a long time, there was actually some traffic in front. Ladd was setting a nice screen, and would have been all over any rebound situation.
This is how the second period ended. For the first time in I don't know how long, the Canes had a slim lead at the second intermission, and I had no worries. Somehow, I knew that they wouldn't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this time.
I had no way of knowing, and could never have imagined that they would explode for five goals in the third. It was that third frame where Staalsy found his groove. Hopefully, he'll stay on track.
At 4:13, Staal scored his first goal of the night. He attempted a shot from the left circle, which was stopped by Garon. Staal scooped up the rebound and attempted a wrap-around to the right post. Garon got a pad on it, but he was unable to get his left skate flush with the right post. Somehow, Staal found the tiny gap and muscled the third-chance into the goal. The goal was
Midway through the second, the Canes were enjoying a power play when Staal was hauled down on a breakaway. He was awarded a penalty shot, which he wasted no time or effort burying into the net. He didn't use any fancy stickhandling or any dekes. Just a hard, authoritative shot from the high slot. 9:48 was the time of the power play penalty shot goal.
It was now 4-1, and this is where the wheels fell off for the Oil. Garon was visibly upset after the goal and was barking at the officials. Presumably, he was upset with the awarding of the penalty shot. No matter what it was, he was shaken, and he wasn't able to move on.
Two and a half minutes later, Sergei Samsonov finished a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play. Erik Cole created a turnover in neutral ice, then head-manned it to Brind'Amour, who in turn hit Samsonov streaking down the left wing. Garon committed to Brind'Amour and it was easy for Samsonov to finish the play into a pretty much vacant net. Officially, it was Samsonov from Brind'Amour and Cole at 12:16. It's Samsonov's second multi-point game since joining the Canes. He now has six (2/4) points in six games with his new team.
Before the goal could be announced in the arena, the Canes struck again. Matt Cullen's shot from low in the left circle was kicked out to the slot, where Chad "Sharpie" LaRose jumped on it and willed it into the goal. The time of this goal was 12:45 of the third and it was assisted by Cullen and Wade Brookbank. That was Brookbank's first point in a Carolina sweater.
At 14:08, Andrew Cogliano made it 6-2 when he banked a shot off Cam Ward and into the net. Gagner and Robert Nillson got the assists.
The best moment of the game came very late. Eric Staal came over the boards on a partial line change for the last shift of the game. He joined Sharpie on an odd-man rush. LaRose had a shooting lane from the left wing, but waited and waited, then passed to Staal at the right dot. Staal blasted it in from there to complete the hat trick at 19:40 of the third. LaRose and Bret Hedican got the assists.
Throughout this slump that the Canes are in, there has usually been one good thing that we could take away from each game. Tonight, everything was good. For the first time in a loooooong time, Carolina's best players played their best. All of them. They were all active and productive.
As the final horn sounded, I wrote my three stars exactly the way they ended up on the "official" three stars. Obviously, Staal was the first star. The official second star was Rod Brind'Amour and the third was Sergei Samsonov. On a night when seven goals were scored, and six guys had multi-point nights, it's hard to ignore the other guys. For example, look at Tim Gleason. He had a goal, an assist, four blocked shots, three hits and a +5 rating. Erik Cole had two assists and five hits. Sharpie had a goal and two assits. It's impossible to ignore all of that, but I'm still going with my original call, which is the same as the official three stars. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Sergei Samsonov, CAR -- 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 takeaways
SECOND STAR Rod Brind'Amour, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists, 14 of 20 faceoff wins
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR -- 3 goals, GWG
The news got even better, as Atlanta got smoked by Buffalo 10-1. The Carolina win and the Atlanta loss put Carolina back in first place. The thrash still have a game in hand, but for the time being, Carolina is still in first place with 50 points to Atlanta's 49.
Carolina will be off until Monday, when they'll begin a home-and-home with the Islanders.