Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/07/09 at 04:17 PM ET
On Friday night, there was a lot of excitement in Raleigh surrounding the visit from the Northwest leading Calgary Flames. Not the least of which was the return of Erik Cole to the Hurricanes lineup after a 63 game stint with the Oilers. Added to that, the Hurricanes longtime nemesis Olli Jokinen was just traded to Calgary. Added to that was the fact that Carolina desperately needs standings points. Even an overtime loss would have been acceptable. The 6-1 rout by Carolina was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
After the meltdown in Atlanta last week, Carolina has beaten two of the top teams in the league, and beaten them convincingly. First, there was a 5-2 win on the road against the Southeast leading Capitals, then this blowout over the Flames. The hard part now will be to keep that mojo going against a considerably less formidable opponent tonight in Tampa.
Since the trade deadline on Wednesday, the entire league has been talking about how the Flames top line of Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen were the best line in the entire league. Carolina contained that line, holding Cammalleri and Jokinen to zero shots each and Iginla to three. Iggy scored a meaningless goal at 16:11 of the third. Aside from that, the “best line in hockey” didn’t do anything.
Instead, it was all about Ray Whitney, who tallied three goals for his third career hat trick and his 300th career goal.
I was listening to the pre-game stuff on the radio as I drove in, and there was every indication that the red-hot Mikka Kiprusoff would be the starting goaltender for Calgary. However, they had Curtis McElhinney, who has never won an NHL game in 12 starts. He made a good stop on Eric Staal in the first minute of the game, then an incredible circus-type save against Rod Brind’Amour ten minutes later. Apparently, he spent himself on those two saves because he was a sieve for the rest of the game.
Ray Whitney started it all with an easy tap-in into an empty net for a power play goal at 14:51 of the first. The entire team committed to Sergei Samsonov, who streaked to the bottom of the right circle, then centered a pass to Whitney who was all alone at the bottom of the right circle. At that point, no goalie in the world could have done anything about it.
At 17:40, Samsonov forced a turnover in the neutral zone, broke in all alone, deked a few times and roofed it for a 2-0 lead.
Before the goal announcement could be made, the Canes struck again. The Ruutu/Staal/Cole line was buzzing, as they were all night. Both Eric/ks were camped out in front when Anton Babchuk fired a shot from the right point. The inexperienced goaltender gave up the juicy rebound right into the low slot, where Erik Cole stuffed it in. The crowd erupted. Not just because it was a 3-0 lead over a very good team, but because the return of the prodigal son was complete.
Whitney got his second of the game at 7:58 of the second with a five-on-three goal. He had all the time in the world to pick his spot, and he wristed one from the top of the right circle just above McElhinney’s left shoulder and just inside the right post. Eric Staal got the primary assist, which was his second of the game.
Scott Walker made it 5-0 at 17:17 of the second. He came off the bench on a line change and immediately fired one in from the left faceoff dot. His shift lasted six seconds. Matt Cullen got the only assist.
The Wizard completed his hat trick at 4:08 of the third, also on the power play. This one was kind of a surprise shot from the slot that beat McElhinney along the ice. It was the only one of the night that beat him low. Cullen and Chad LaRose got the assists. It was his 21st of the season and the 300th of his career.
Not to have his night be a complete failure, Jarome Iginla ruined Cam Ward’s shutout bid at 16:11after he forced a center ice turnover. His unassisted goal from the right circle was his 29th of the season and the 403rd of his illustrious career.
Carolina plays tonight in Tampa. The Lightning lost last night to the Blues in overtime, so neither team will be fresh.
Expect to see Cam Ward back in nets for the Canes tonight.
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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.