On Saturday night, the Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 5-4 with a dramatic three goal outburst in the third. The win marked the third win in a row, which matches Carolina's longest winning streak of the season. It is also their fourth straight home win.
Atlanta played a horrible game on Long Island, getting beat 4-1. The Carolina win and the Atlanta loss means that the Hurricanes have sole possession of first place in the division. The Capitals won on Saturday, and they remain two points behind Carolina, tied with Atlanta. The Capitals have one game in hand. Florida is four points back. Tampa is eight points back, but have two games in hand. The division is still anybody's for the taking.
Time-Warner Cable of Greensboro really didn't want me to watch hockey. As I sat down to watch the game, I discovered that my Center Ice package wasn't working. Every channel had a message -- "This channel is temporarily unavailable". Also, the NHL Network was displaying the same message. Then, because my computer is all messed up and the Canes don't have radio coverage in Greensboro, I had to rely on NHL.com for "realtime" updates. It's not the best in the world, but it's a lot better than nothing.
Finally, a few hours later, I got to see the highlights on the NHL Network.
Wade Brookbank, Sergei Samsonov, Eric Staal, Trevor Letowski and Ray Whitney all scored for the Canes. Brookbank, Samsonov and Letowski all got tip-ins by working hard and crashing the net. Staal worked his butt off for his goal after getting knocked down behind the Panthers' net. The game winning goal by Whitney was set up beautifully by a cross-ice backhand pass from Joe Corvo. In two games played, he has two assists, and he's looked pretty good.
Nathan Horton scored twice for the visiting Panthers, including once on a penalty shot.
This was the 14th time in a row the Panthers have lost at the RBC Center. This time, they can't blame the officials. Carolina had a goal disallowed. Florida had a penalty shot goal. They can't blame the "diving" Canes. They have nobody but themselves to blame for blowing a two-goal lead in the third period. The defense allowed some weird angle shots to get through, and Vokoun gave up the juicy rebounds, and Carolina was putting themselves in the right position to get the odd rebounds and tip-ins.
Since I didn't see the whole game, I can't possibly come up with three stars. I'll have to rely on the "official" stars.
THIRD STAR Sergei Samsonov, CAR -- G
SECOND STAR Eric Staal, CAR -- G, A
FIRST STAR Ray Whitney, CAR -- GWG
Clearly, Andrew Ladd needs some love. He had two assists, and he's got seven (3/4) points in his last five games. With Brind'Amour and Williams out of the lineup for the season and Cory Stillman traded away, Andrew Ladd is one of the guys who will have to step up. So far, he's seizing every opportunity. Clearly, the onus is on Eric Staal to be "the man", but everyone else is gonna have to get bigger.
Coming down the stretch, Carolina has a good chance to help themselves. They have an overwhelming majority of their remaining games at home, and for the first time all season, they'll regularly have more than one day off between games. This homestretch in the tight SE race will be tough. Injuries are working against Carolina, but the schedule is working with them. If they can dig deep and find some of that "whatever it takes" stuff, they'll be in the driver's seat for the homestretch. I think they can.
3 years ago