Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/30/10 at 08:24 AM ET
On Monday night, Cam Ward got his first start in nets for the Canes in nearly two months. He showed no signs of rustiness, beating a desperate Thrashers team 4-1. Jussi Jokinen scored twice for the Canes while Brandon Sutter and Erik Cole each added one.
This was one of the super-rare games that neither team televised, so it wasn’t even on Center Ice. Added to that, somebody at the Hurricanes flagship radio station fell asleep at the webcast switch, and we lost the feed after the first period. Canes fans outside of Raleigh were almost completely in the dark. Like a lot of others, I had to rely on NHL.com’s “live scoreboard”, which is, if I’m fair, a lot better than nothing.
The win puts another breath into Carolina’s slim playoff hopes, and it may have ruined Atlanta’s.
The Thrashers started the day just two points back of eighth place Boston, and with their difficult schedule, this was an absolute must-win game for them. They got help from the Bruins, who were beaten in regulation by Buffalo. However, the Hurricanes dealt a crushing blow with this 4-1 win. The Thrash will play in Toronto tonight while the Bruins are at New Jersey. After that, the road becomes a nearly impassable one for the Thrash. They play the league-leading Capitals twice (both on the road), the Atlantic division-leading Penguins twice and also the playoff-bound Devils. That’s a very difficult stretch of games, and they’ll need a little help. The Bruins hold a game in hand and they also hold the season series tiebreaker with the Thrashers. They need to treat the gap as if it’s three points rather than two.
Cam Ward, who was out of the lineup with a back injury since February 3, didn’t look like it. He gave up a power play goal in the first period, and was outstanding after that. He stopped 13 second period shots and ten in the third. He ended with a total of 26 saves on 27 shots. Since I couldn’t see or hear the game, I have to go by the accounts I’ve read, which indicate that he made a series of dazzling saves in the second period and looked very much himself in the win.
Brandon Sutter scored his 19th of the season at 1:52 of the second, and he assisted on Jussi Jokinen’s 28th at 9:23. This has been a better season for Sutter than anyone expected, and it’s a bit of a surprise that it’ll be Jokinen rather than Eric Staal who hits the 30-goal plateau.
The Hurricanes gave the Thrashers power play opportunities in the second, but they couldn’t accomplish anything, and the period ended with the Canes clinging onto a 2-1 lead.
Erik Cole scored on a one-timer from the high slot to make it 3-1 at 15:49 of the third. It was over after this, as John Anderson lifted his goalie for the extra attacker really early.
Jokinen scored into the empty net at 17:52 for his second of the game and the 29th of his season. This is the first time in his career that he’s even topped 20 goals, and he’s most likely going to end up with more than 30. His points total of 60 is also a career best for him. Unless a small miracle happens, there won’t be an opportunity for him to be a playoff hero this spring, but we’ll look forward to that in the spring of 2011.
Canes fans will have their eyes on three NHL matchups tonight: Atlanta at Toronto; Boston at New Jersey; Rangers at Islanders. The perfect scenario will be for all three home teams to win in regulation.
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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.