Earlier in the day, I wrote about how Alex Ovechkin has been quiet for the last three games. He wasn't quiet today. He notched three points, all assists, bringing his season total to 81 (48/33) points. Against the Canes, he has nine (5/4) in six games.
If a time traveler had told me that #8 would have a huge game tonight, I would naturally have assumed that he meant Alex Ovechkin. Without a doubt, Ovie had a big game. However, he wasn't the #8 who really shone tonight.
Matt Cullen notched two goals and an assist for the Hurricanes to bring his season total t0 43 (11/32) in 49 games played. His heroics earned him the first star of the game.
For the first ten minutes of the first period, Carolina looked flat. Washington came out jumping, and the shot totals were 11-1 in the opening minutes. The puck stayed in Carolina's end for almost the entire time. Thankfully, the Hurricanes snapped to it and got their "A" game going.
Mike Green got the visitors on the board at 6:06 of the first after Bret Hedican made a horrible defensive play in his own end, leading to a 2-on-1. Ovechkin had the only assist.
At 13:30, Carolina scored their first of four (!) power play goals. Matt Cullen fired a shot from the high slot, beating Kolzig. During the power play sequence, one of the Caps defensemen broke his stick and also blocked a shot with his ankle. It was virtually a five-on-three. Ray Whitney and big Joe Corvo got the helpers.
Alex Semin gave the Caps their second lead of the night at 16:13 on a power play, firing one top shelf from the high slot. Ovechkin, who had been knocked off his pegs by Eric Staal, and Tomas Fleischmann assisted.
3:43 into the second period, the Hurricanes tied it again on another power play goal. Joe Corvo's shot from the left circle was blockered down by Kolzig, but the rebound was too juicy. Cullen jumped on it at the left inside hash marks for his second marker of the game.
Carolina notched yet another power play goal at 5:56 to take the lead. Briefly. Ray Whitney's shot from the top of the left circle was blocked, but the big rebound was hacked at by Staal, then Cole. Staal and Whitney got the assists, but Matt Cullen deserves a tertiary assist. Seconds before the Whitney shot, Cullen made a sprawling move to prevent a Caps clearing attempt. He kept it in the zone, rotated it over to Corvo, then the Whitney shot.
At 8:47, the Caps knotted the score again when Brooks Laich beat Cam Ward with a wrister from the high slot. Ovechkin and Green assisted on the power play goal.
Eric Staal put the Canes back in front at 16:39. He jumped on a loose puck at the bottom of the left circle and shoved it in for what turned out to be the game winner.
Andrew Ladd cleaned up some loose change at 3:50 of the third for his ninth goal of the season. Tim Conboy's shot from above the right circle was stopped by Kolzig, but Ladd was parked by the right post to shove in the rebound from point blank range. Conboy and Samsonov got the helpers.
Finally, Joe Corvo scored a power play goal at 7:44 of the final frame. It came on the front end of a high-sticking double minor. Corvo came out of nowhere to pounce on the rebound of Eric Staal's left circle shot. It was Corvo's third point of the night and his first goal in a Hurricanes sweater. He now has 32 (7/25) points on the season. Of those, five (1/4) have come in the six games he's played with Carolina.
Originally, Ray Whitney was credited for three assists, but later the scoring was changed so that he had two. Also, Andrew Ladd lost two assists in the shuffle. He went from a three (1/2) point night and being an "also ran", to having a one goal night.
I had named Whitney as one of my stars, but the scoring changes sort of rained on that. Tim Gleason didn't have any scoring points and ended up as a -1, but he should be given some love for his outstanding play in his own end. Five blocked shots!
On any other day, I would have no problem giving the third star to Alex Ovechkin. Three assists is a very good night. However, three Hurricanes players had three points apiece, and since they won the game, they got the official and the RBH stars.
THIRD STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- GWG, 2 assists, 3 hits
SECOND STAR Joe Corvo, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 takeaways, 2 blocked shots
FIRST STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- 2 goals, 1 assist, 11/12 (92%) faceoff wins
Carolina has three games left on this homestand and 10 of their remaining 17 games are in the friendly confines. They have been a very dangerous team at home, going 6-0-1 in their last seven. They will be seriously tested on Tuesday when Martin Brodeur and the Devils come to town.
Patrick Eaves was rumored to have been slated for insertion in the lineup for this game. He did not play. He didn't practice on Friday and isn't ready yet. In post-game interviews, coach Peter Laviolette denied ever having said that Eaves would be ready. There is still no word on when he'll play.
Glen Wesley was injured in the first period and didn't return. There's no word on the type or severity of the injury. Just that he didn't feel right.
In other division news, Atlanta lost to Toronto. As if it wasn't already certain enough, I'd say that the loss will push Don Waddell's hand to deal Maid Marian Hossa to a contender.
There should be some exciting moves in and out of the SE division. There's still a chance that Carolina is a buyer, especially in light of Rod Brind'Amour's injury. The biggest moves, though, will be Marian Hossa out of Atlanta and Vaclav Prospal out of Tampa. The clock is ticking.