Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/15/11 at 12:07 AM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in the home opener at First Niagara Center. They were poorly disciplined, but the special teams stood tall. They got shorthanded goals from alternate captain Brandon Sutter and newcomer Tim Brent. Defenseman Jay Harrison also scored a goal that was technically even strength, but it happened just as a penalty to Tyler Myers was elapsing. Initially it was declared a power play goal, but after a while, the ruling was changed and it was deemed even strength. Jeff Skinner added a power play goal late in the third.
Carolina had several excellent short-handed scoring chances in the game. In addition to the two shorthanded goals, Sutter hit a post, Eric Staal was stopped on a breakaway, and Ryan Miller made a couple of really good saves to keep his team in the game, even when they had a manpower advantage.
The Sabres had seven power plays, which is way more than Carolina would like to give them, but the Canes killed every one of them. The shorties were just gravy. On the other side of the ledger, the Canes converted one (or two) out of five power plays. They’ll take that any night of the week.
The Tim Brent goal happened while Chad LaRose was in the box, by himself, feeling shame for committing a tripping penalty. I point this out because Sharpie is one of, if not the best penalty killer the Canes have. Timmy Brent was a fantastic penalty killer for the Leafs, and he’s clearly brought that with him. Like LaRose, he is not only a good defensive forward, but a real shorthanded scoring threat. Pat Dwyer is the same, so the Canes may put up big shorthanded scoring numbers this season.
Tomas Vanek got the Sabres off and running with a goal at 6:58 of the first, during a four-on-four sequence. The lead didn’t last very long. Jay Harrison answered with his goal at 8:20. His shot from the left point looked like it may have been tipped down low by Alexei Ponikarovsky, but they ruled it Harrison’s goal. At first they called it a power play goal, but they changed it to even strength.
Derek Roy put the Sabres back in front at 10:01 of the first, and it looked like they would take that lead to the room.
Bryan Allen was called for interfering with Jason Pominville at center ice with one minute to play in the period. Pominville didn’t have control of the puck, and he was looking down-ice at the puck that was just out of his reach. Allen came across and caught Pominville with his head in one direction and his body moving in another. It didn’t go well. Pominville was down and out for a while, but not seriously injured. It clearly wasn’t a hit that targeted the head, but it was late and Pominville was defenseless. The puck wasn’t really “in the area”, so it was certainly interference. Nothing more, though.
It looked like this lead would stand and the Sabres would have a minute of PP at the start of the second to build on the lead. Brandon Sutter had a different idea. He scooped up a puck in the Carolina zone and exploded down the left wing for a semi-breakaway on Miller. He scored, unassisted and shorthanded, at 19:48 of the first.
At some point in the first, Canes rookie forward Zac Dalpe went awkwardly into the end wall, and it looked like he may have suffered a knee injury. He was taken out of the game and never returned. There’s no information yet, other than the generic “lower body injury”. The Canes don’t play again until Tuesday, so there’s no rush to make a recall from Charlotte. It’ll be a topic of much debate, though.
Tim Brent put the Canes ahead at 6:59 of the second on another shorthanded goal. He and Jiri Tlusty were in on a two-on-one rush, and Tlusty made a sweet pass to the charging Brent.
Drew Stafford made things interesting when he got an equalising goal at 17:39. Just after that, the Sabres were mounting some serious pressure deep in the Canes zone, threatening to score a go-ahead goal. Tomas Vanek ruined it when he was guilty of tripping at 18:00.
Just 36 seconds into the power play, Jeff Skinner scored the game-winning goal after a slick pass from Jussi Jokinen.
After a slow start, the Hurricanes have won two games in a row and are looking really good on special teams. This was a major weakness of the Canes in each of the last three seasons, at least.
Carolina is on the road, thanks to the North Carolina State Fair, and they’ll stay on the road for the next ten days. They’ll play at Boston on Tuesday, at St. Louis next Friday and at Winnipeg next Saturday. Their next home game will be against the Senators on the 25th.
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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.