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

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Canes reclaim first place with road win in DC

On Friday night, the Hurricanes climbed back into first place with a 2-1 victory over the Capitals. With 25 games to play, Carolina has a narrow one point lead in the Southeast division. The good news for the Hurricanes is that 15 of those games are at home and they have a lot of space between games. In the first half of the season, Carolina played most of their games on the road, and they had a bunch of "three games in four days" scenarios.

The game was deemed (by me, anyway) as a "must-win". A loss would have put Carolina three points back of the Caps and in fourth place in the SE.

Coming out of the all-star break, Coach Peter Laviolette told the boys to play as if the next seven games were a playoff series. Five games into this "series", the Canes are 3-2 with road games tonight at New Jersey and Tuesday at Boston. After that, they will have eight out of nine at home.

In the first period of action on Friday, there was a lot of intensity. Two fights, lots of hitting, and some scoring for the good guys.

Erik Cole scored an eye-popping goal to remind us who that #26 guy is. At 3:56, he finished a play that can only be compared to that shootout goal that Peter Forsberg scored in the 1994 Olympics. He was sprung with a pass off the right wing wall, turned on the jets, avoided some backchecking, dragged the puck from his backhand to the forehand. Brent Johnson, who got the mystery start in place of Olli the Goalie, bit on that move, sliding all the way to his right. Cole pulled it back to his backhand and one-handed it in the empty net. I've seen Rick Nash do that in a shootout. We saw Jussi Jokinen do it twice in shootouts. I've never seen a player make that shot in live action. The goal made the #1 play of the night on NHL Network. Enjoy the highlight:

Officially, it was Cole from Cory Stillman and Frantisek Kaberle at 3:56. Milan Jurcina was the defenseman Cole blew past, and he made a last-ditch effort to poke the puck away, but he lost his stick in the process. Although no referee was indicating penalty, if Cole hadn't scored, he might have been awarded a penalty shot. As he finished the play, Jurcina's stick slid across the ice. Whether it was thrown or just got loose, I don't know, but it doesn't matter anyway.

Cole was more than a goal scorer in the first period. He laid the wood to Alex Ovechkin a couple of times. At the end of it all, he had four hits.

At 14:47 of the first, Carolina's 2004 first round pick Andrew Ladd potted his sixth goal of the year to make it 2-1. Sergei Samsonov led the way with the Canes on a 3-on-2 break. Rod Brind'Amour was with him on the right wing and Ladd was coming down the middle. From the right circle, Samsonov just put a hard shot on net. The juicy rebound went right to Ladd in the low slot where he basically just put his stick on the ice to get the goal. This would prove to be the game winner.

The second period was pretty much a wash after Carolina dominated the flow of the first period.

Cam Ward lost his shutout bid at 9:44 when Alex Semin finished a hard-working play to cut the lead in half. The Caps were dictating the flow of the third, and they had some great sustained pressure deep in the Carolina zone. After working hard behind the net, Semin went out to the right circle. There was a ton of traffic in front. Semin shot, then followed his own shot with a stuff in from near the right post. The goal was unassisted.

There were some nervous moments coming down the stretch, but Carolina held on for the regulation win.

For only the eleventh time all season, Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet completely.

The "official" three stars went to Cole (third), Semin (second) and Cam Ward (first).
I have it differently. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Andrew Ladd, CAR -- GWG
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR -- win, 33 saves
FIRST STAR Erik Cole, CAR -- goal, 4 hits, 2 blocked shots

Carolina will be in the Devils' new building tonight, playing the fourth of five straight road games.

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