Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/04/09 at 10:57 PM ET
On Saturday, Carolina extended their winning streak to eight games and their home streak to eleven games by beating the Penguins 3-2 in overtime. It was a hard-fought game, and in the end it was once again Anton Babchuk who scored the winner.
Babchuk’s goal from the top of the right circle went through a screen and past M-A Fleury for his 14th goal and his fourth game-winner of the season.
Cam Ward won his eighth straight game and his 38th of the season. The latter ties a franchise record set by Martin Gerber in 2006.
Most important, the win clinches a playoff spot for the Hurricanes. The way things are looking, there’s a fair chance that Carolina could even get home ice advantage in the first round. Sadly, due to budgetary restraints at La Maison du RBH I’ve exercised the right of refusal on playoff tickets. I’ll be watching from home, but I have an opportunity to rent a seat on a per-game basis.
In a game that was exciting from drop to final horn, both teams brought it all. The first period was crazily paced, with each team registering 15 shots on net and one goal apiece. Both goaltenders were at the absolute top of their game. First, Tyler Kennedy scored for the Pens, then Eric Staal answered eight minutes later to tie it.
The Staal goal seemed like a good omen. The Hurricanes are 20-2-2 when Eric Staal scores a goal.
The second and third periods were less frantic as both teams clamped down on defense and denied opportunities. In the second, the Pens had twelve shots and the Canes had eight. Chad LaRose scored in the first minute of the middle frame giving the Canes a 2-1 lead, which they kept for the rest of the period.
Just three and a half minutes into the third, Jordan Staal was credited with a goal from the high slot that looked like it was tipped down low. Either way, the score was tied at two, where it stayed for the remainder of regulation.
The Jordan Staal goal had me a little concerned because Tyler Kennedy picked up an assist. Going into this game, the Pens were 4-0-0 when Kennedy had multiple points.
The third was played even tighter than the second. Almost as if both teams were playing to not lose. The shots were eight for the Pens and just four for the Canes. Evgeni Malkin had a penalty shot almost midway through the period, but Cam Ward dealt with it appropriately, patiently waiting out the league’s top points scorer.
Carolina kept the puck in the offensive zone for the entirety of the extra frame, and it didn’t take long. Tim Gleason slid a point-to-point pass to Babchuk, who settled the puck, then slapped it in from the right circle for the winner.
And a berth in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, the Penguins will try to secure their own berth when they play against Florida. The Panthers have a bit of hope remaining, but they’ll need to run the table and get some help from Les Habitants and the Rangers.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.