On Thursday night, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Penguins by the score of 4-2. Incidentally, I predicted this final tally, and won four shots for my soothsaying awesomeness.
On a much darker note, Carolina may have won the game and reclaimed first place in the Southeast division, but they have lost their Captain. On the first shift of the first period, Rod Brind'Amour sustained an injury to his knee which turned out to be a torn ACL. He's done for the season. By the time this season is done, it's likely that Carolina will have 300 or more man-games lost to injury. I'll get to work on finding an exact number, but I'm guessing that it's somewhere at or above 200 already. Justin Williams, Chad LaRose and now Rod Brind'Amour are done for the season. Matt Cullen has been on the IR for some time and his return is not looking that great right now.
On top of all that, the Hurricanes are dealing with a second bout of the flu. After six or more Hurricanes had the flu back in January, it looks like it's reared its ugly head again. Tim Gleason and newcomer Joe Corvo have contracted the flu and sat out on Thursday.
The Hurricanes played with the hand that was dealt them, and they played it well. With no less than four AHL-quality players already in the lineup, they lost Rod Brind'Amour in the game's first minute, but rolled with the punches and emarged with an impressive 4-2 win over a weary Penguins team.
The game was not a part of my season ticket package, but a friend of a friend hooked me up with some corporate box seats with free food and booze. It rocked. So there I sat in a corporate box with two friends of mine who are both Penguins fans and a complete stranger (the one who hooked us up) who is a Sabres fan. I enjoyed.
We got an extremely late start on our drive, but I was very impressed with the Sabre fan's ability to make a one hour drive take about 38 minutes. We missed the first minute of the game, and Brindy's injury.
Erik Cole got the good guys off and running at 3:13 with a tip-in of a right point shot from Ray Whitney. With Jordan Staal in the penalty box for kneeing, Carolina won the faceoff and Whitney's shot was directed in by Cole. Jeff Hamilton got the secondary assist.
Public Enemy #1 Brooks Orpik evened the score at 13:00 of the first. He uncorked a shot from the outside hashmarks of the left circle, and it beat Ward cleanly. Colby Armstrong and Jarku Ruutu got the helpers.
In the second frame, the Penguins took the lead at 2:38 when Evgeni Malkin notched his 33rd goal of the season. His shot from the left circle apparently caromed off Frantisek Kaberle's stick. The goal was unassisted, but I thought Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar deserved helpers.
At 10:36, Eric Staal got the equalizer while his little brother was in the box again. Ray Whitney's point shot was tipped by Andrew Ladd and stopped by Dany Sabourin, but Staal picked up the loose change in the low slot and wristed it home. Originally, the helpers went to Whitney and Kaberle, but in the end, Ladd was given the primary assist and Whitney the second.
The third period was all Canes.
Ray Whitney put the home team in the lead at 3:49 of the final stanza when he made a really nifty maneuver through the slot and beat Sabourin for another power play goal. Maxim Talbot (not Jordan Staal) was the party in the box feeling shame this time. Eric Staal and Frantisek Kaberle got the assists.
At 11:39, Ryan Bayda (who is one of many Albany River Rats call-ups) notched his first goal of the season by firing one in off the right post and in from the slot. Scott Walker and Glen Wesley assisted on the even strength goal.
Earlier in the day, I commented to my Penguins fan friend that the Hurricanes power play was listless. I even said to him that they could do whatever they wanted to us and we wouldn't capitalize on our power play chances. Boy was I wrong. Carolina cashed in on three of their six chances.
To start the game, Carolina was already missing three key defensemen and two forwards. Then they lost Brind'Amour for the season. They still put up one of the best outings of the season against an admittedly tired team. Carolina put 46 shots on net, blocked an amazing 22 shots and laid out an eye-popping 32 hits.
The "official" three stars went to Frantisek Kaberle (third), Eric Staal (second) and Ray Whitney (first). I didn't quite see it that way. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Glen Wesley, CAR --- 6 blocked shots, 4 hits
SECOND STAR Ray Whitney, CAR --- GWG, 2 assists, 2 takeaways
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist, 59% faceoff wins
Eric Staal is going to have to do more of what he did tonight. He took the game on his shoulders. He took the faceoffs that Brindy would have taken, and he won them. He scored a key goal and assisted on the game winner. From this point forward, with the Captain out of the lineup, the team is Staal's.
When the Canes and Penguins met last week, Jordan Staal had one assist and Eric had nothing. This time, Eric had the much better game. Eric's goal came while Jordan was in the box, and Jordan was in the box for one of Carolina's other goals. He finished with an abysmal 24% (4 out of 17) faceoff win percentage.
On a different day, I'll plan to post about how I think Canes fans need to get over the Orpik hatred.
On another different day, I'll plan to updated the Staal v Staal v Staal points race.
On another different day, I'll plan to outline the Hurricanes injury woes.
I'll probably get to those posts in reverse order.
For now, the Canes are happy that they're in first place, but devastated that they've lost their Captain for the remainder of the season.
3 years ago