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

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Canes trounce Bolts, widen lead

On Saturday, the Hurricanes soundly defeated the Lightning 5-1. With the help of the Maple Leafs, they were able to expand their lead in the Southeast division to five points. Carolina has 14 games to play. Washington has two games in hand and two more games against Carolina. All four of those games are "must win" games for Bruce Boudreau's team.

Carolina got a tremendous team effort to close out the six-game homestand. In those six games, Carolina went 4-1-1. In their last ten games at the big ATM, Carolina has been a very impressive 8-1-1. This will hopefully extend through the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Carolina is poised to win their division and have home-ice advantage, and their recent success at home should be a tremendous advantage.

The most impressive thing about the "total effort" was that every single one of the "new guys" played a huge part in the win.

The scoring started with a "soft" goal given up by Cam Ward. Jeff Halpern tapped in some loose change in front of the goal through Ward's five hole at 7:04 of the first. Michel Ouellet and Mathieu Darche got the assists.

Eric Staal got the equalizer at 10:43. He fought hard for a loose puck in front of the goal, and it looked like he batted the loose puck out of midair to tie the game. Tuomo Ruutu and Timmaaay Gleason got the assists. Time of the goal was 10:43 of the first.

The first period ended with a Carolina power play, which extended for one minute into the second frame. One second after the expiration, Big Joe Corvo had all the time in the world to shoot a howitzer from the high slot, which beat Mike Smith (still wearing a Dallas Stars helmet) high on the blocker side. In what has become somewhat of a recurring theme, the goal was scored while one of the opponents was playing without a stick. This goal came at 1:02 of the second, assisted by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. This one would prove to be the game winner.

Sergei Samsonov scored a power play marker at 10:01, assisted by Frantisek Kaberle and Scott Walker. From the top of the left circle, his one-timer beat Smith cleanly for the 3-1 lead.

Samsonov scored his second goal of the night at 4:02 of the third on a nice backhanded tap-in. Patrick Eaves had a very nice chance that was stopped, but Samsonov jumped on the rebound and slammed it home. Matt Cullen got the secondary assist, but this whole play was set up by Samsonov, streaking down the right wing.

Ruutu got his first goal in a Hurricanes sweater at 6:00 of the third by finishing a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play on the left side of the goal mouth. Eric Staal and Erik Cole had the assists. And the crowd chanted "Ruuty! Ruuty! Ruuty!"

It's really nice to see the fans take such a shine to the new guys. Even when Doug Weight and Mark Recchi were brought in during the year of the Cup, we weren't so quick to embrace them. Last year, the Anson Carter thing was a fiasco. Before that, Carolina was always a seller at the trade deadline.

Sergei Samsonov has been far and away the best of the "new guys", and was probably the GM move of the year, league wide. In 24 games with the Canes, he has registered 21 (11/10) points. All that after he scored just four (0/4) points in 23 games with Chicago.

Joe Corvo has also played well since joining the Canes. He's put up six points (2/4) in nine games with Carolina. We're still one game shy of the standard "let's wait ten games to see how we like him", but I'll go ahead and say that we'd rather have Corvo than Commodore any day of the week. And Twice on Sundays.

The other part of that deal, Patty Eaves, hasn't had much time, but he's looked good. He's only played in three games, but has registered two assists, and came very close to scoring a goal in this game.

Ruuty has three (1/2) points in three games. His counterpart in the trade, Andrew Ladd, has also performed well with his new team. Ladd has two goals in three games played for the Blackhawks.

For this game, it was another one where you could pick any three guys as the stars. Except Bret Hedican. He made a boneheaded pass in his own end which led to the lone Bolts goal.

The "official" stars went to Joe Corvo (third), Eric Staal (second) and Sergei Samsonov (first). Mine were only slightly different. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Tuomo Ruutu, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist
SECOND STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists, +3
FIRST STAR Sergei Samsonov, CAR --- 2 goals, 1 assist

Carolina will be off until Wednesday. In the interim, Washington will expend one of their two games in hand when they play host to the hot Bruins, who are currently in the sixth playoff spot and would be Carolina's first round opponent.

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