Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/22/09 at 10:55 PM ET
On Sunday afternoon, the Hurricanes beat the visiting Avalanche for the first time ever, and did it in convincing fashion. With 3 goals from Matt Cullen, some outstanding “character” play from Tim Conboy, and a balanced 60 minute game, the Hurricanes emerged with a 5-2 win. They are now just one point out of eighth place and four points out of fourth place in the East. The Rangers game is still pending tonight, but the Penguins have already lost, which helps Carolina’s cause. The three other teams that Carolina is chasing (Buffalo, Montréal and Floriday) will all be in action on Tuesday, when the Hurricanes play in Ottawa. If things go well, Carolina could be in fifth place by 10:00 pm on Tuesday.
Matt Cullen registered his 17th, 18th and 19th goals of the season to get his first career hat trick. The final goal, an empty netter, was set up very unselfishly by Ray Whitney. The Wizard had a perfectly clear shot on the empty net, but opted for a difficult cross-ice pass to the trailing Cullen. Cully made no mistake in finishing it. In addition to being the first of Cully’s career, it was the first hat trick scored against Colorado all season.
He won’t get much accolade, but Tim Conboy played a huge role in setting the tone of this game early on.
The Avs got a great start, and Wojtek Wolski scored the game’s first goal just 59 seconds in. Just a few seconds later, Canes defenseman Tim Gleason was given a hard ride into the endwall resulting in a bloody forehead. It appeared that the Avs wanted to push the Canes around, but the Canes shut that down immediately. Conboy came out for the next shift and immediately dropped gloves with Avs tough guy Chris Stewart. The fight was a draw, but it very loudly let Colorado know that they weren’t going to bully the Canes around. As an obvious added benefit, it electrified the crowd. Conboy doesn’t have the most skill in the world, but he’s a versatile player who loves to get his hands dirty and his knuckles bloodied. This is exactly why he’s the River Rats’ captain and why he’s a fan favorite in Raleigh every time he gets called up.
Cullen scored his first goal at exactly 7:00, putting in a rebound of a Chad LaRose shot. Joni Pitkänen, who was playing for the first time in a week, picked up the other assist.
Cullen opened the scoring in the second just 1:19 into the period. His wraparound bid squeaked inside the left post of Andrew Raycroft. LaRose and Whitney assisted.
Before the crowd could settle back into their seats, the Avs knotted it up on a goal that, frankly, I didn’t even see. I haven’t watched the game tape yet, but it was a quick strike by stupid Darcy Tucker at 2:12, assisted by Chris Stewart and Brett Clark.
Joni Pitkänen put the Canes back in front with a nice putback of a long rebound into the low slot. Tuomo Ruutu assisted on the “Finn-tastic” goal, as did the German Dennis Seidenberg.
By this point, the Avs were trying to impose their brute will on the game, but Carolina was composed and didn’t take the bait. Instead, they let the Avs go on a parade to the penalty box. Of course the Canes didn’t cash in on any of their eight opportunities, but they stayed composed.
Ryan Bayda scored his fifth of the season at 8:49 for the only insurance the Canes would need. Jussi Jokinen and Anton Babchuk (who had an otherwise lousy game) got the helpers.
Late in the third with Raycroft gone, Tuomo Ruutu completely botched a wide open shot on the empty net, sending it about 12 feet over the cage. It turned out to be a good thing, though, because it kept Raycroft on the bench.
At 19:28, Ray Whitney had an open net and no defenders in front of him, but he was aware of Cullen being on the ice and needing one more. He gained the zone, then made a tricky pass through the trailing defenders to Cullen on the right wing. It wasn’t the prettiest or the easiest, but Cullen finished it to get his first career hat trick. In another classy move, Whitney immediately fished the puck out of the net for Cullen’s trophy case.
The three point night for Cullen puts him at 401 (150/251) for his career.
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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.