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

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Canes down Sabres, widen lead

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes beat Buffalo 4-3 in overtime. It was the second of three things to make this a perfect day for RBH.

Earlier in the day, the Capitals self-destructed in the third period of their game against Boston, handing the Bruins the game. Thing one.

Thing two was this game. Just as I suspected, it wasn't at all like either of the two previous games between the teams this season.

It's beginning to sound like a broken record, but the new guys and the "Rat Pack" were major players in the game. There is no way Carolina would be where they are today without the major contributions from new guys (Sergei Samsonov, Joe Corvo, Patrick Eaves, Tuomo Ruutu) or the "Rat Pack" (Keith Aucoin, Ryan Bayda, Tim Conboy, Wade Brookbank).

Aucoin got the Hurricanes on the board first with a really nice finish of a well played shift. Ryan Bayda was relentless with his shot and rebound attempts. Finally, a rebound went out to Aucoin at the inside hashmarks of the right circle. He snapped it in at 16:35. Bayda and Corvo had the assists.

As the goal was being announced over the PA, Tim Gleason made it 2-0. Matt Cullen won the draw back to Gleason, who tried a shot from the right point. It was turned aside by Ryan Miller, but Eaves fed it back to Gleason for a second shot. This time it found the net. Officially, the goal was Gleason from Eaves and Cullen at 17:01.

Derek Roy pulled the Sabres to within one goal at 7:46 of the second. Cam Ward made a sloppy play behind his own net and Roy capitalized on it by pouncing on a loose puck in front and sliding it past Ward. The unassisted goal was Roy's 27th marker of the season. He is now tied with Thomas Vanek for the team lead.

Sergei Samsonov continued his skyrocket-like success by notching his 12th goal since joining the Hurricanes 27 games ago. Eric Staal fired a shot from the high slot that was answered by Miller, but Samsonov swatted the rebound out of mid-air and into the net. Dennis Seidenberg got the secondary assist, and the official time was 8:52 of the second.

Drew Stafford again cut the lead to one when he got a tip-in at 18:07 of the second. The Sabres worked hard and created a ton of traffic on the play. There were two unattended Sabres right on the front doorstep, and Stafford just happened to be the one who got his stick on it. Dmitri Kalinin and Derek Roy got the assists.

Both teams really battened down the hatches and everyone knew that the third period would be a good one. The only scoring came at the midway point of the period. Bret Hedican took one of his trademark bad penalties, tripping Maxim Afinogenov. On the ensuing power play, the Sabres created havoc in front of Cam Ward, and in the havoc, Ward lost his stick. Toni Lydman willed the puck in, and there was a brand new game. Officially, the power play goal came at 10:00 of the third. Lydman from Jochen Hecht and Afinogenov.

Late in the third, Ryan Miller was outstanding. He made a dazzling stop on Eric Staal, exploding from his right to left to rob Staal at the right post. Staal had already raised his arms to celebrate, but Miller was better. A few minutes later, he made a fantastic save on Sergei Samsonov, taking away another sure goal.

The game went to overtime, and Miller again robbed Samsonov early in the extra frame. I was thinking that Samsonov was going to have nightmares about Ryan Miller. However, Jaro Spacek was called for hooking, and the Canes were given a 4-on-3 overtime power play.

Near the end of the power play, Eric Staal wristed a shot from the high slot. Scott Walker was parked in front of the crease and tipped it off the right post and in. After a series of remarkable saves, Miller got beaten by a shot that he had no chance of seeing. Staal and Corvo assisted Walker for the game winner.

The "official" three stars went to Eric Staal(third), Sergei Samsonov (second) and Scott Walker (first). That's just not fair. Ryan Miller played a hell of a game. He was on his head for most of the third period and the overtime. I don't feel right not giving him credit for a heroic effort.

Trevor Letowski was an unsung hero of this game. He did some very nice work on the penalty kill, and he had a good night in the faceoff circle. He finished with a -1 rating and had no points, but I need to mention his hard work tonight and throughout the Hurricanes hot streak.

With special mention to Letowski, Matt Cullen and Ryan Bayda, the RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Ryan Miller, BUF --- 31 saves
SECOND STAR Joe Corvo, CAR --- 2 assists
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 2 assists

Carolina now has a seven point lead in the division. They have eleven games to play while Washington has 13. The Caps have two games in hand. One will be expended Sunday against the Penguins. The Hurricanes will be off until Wednesday when they will visit Kevyn Adams, Craig Adams, Andrew Ladd and the Blackhawks.

This game made my night good enough, but to cap it off, UNC held off a furious second half rally by Duke to win the big game 76-68. All the detractors have been saying that UNC doesn't deserve its #1 ranking because they "haven't played anybody". Duke is the #5 team in the nation, and UNC beat them in Durham. That should be good enough. It was an emotional day for both teams. Duke had "senior day", and Carolina was playing the first game since the shocking murder of the UNC student body president earlier this week. Duke was classy enough to observe a moment of silence before the game and hand out Carolina blue ribbons in her honor.

Overall, a very good day for RBH.

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