Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/02/11 at 12:52 AM ET
On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes won a critical game against the Panthers, earning two standings points and maintaining their slim two point cushion over the ninth place Buffalo Sabres. Carolina got a goal and an assist from Cory Stillman, and the game-winning goal from Eric Staal. Cam Ward, who has started the last 23 games in a row, made 41 saves to earn his 27th win.
Meanwhile, the Sabres defeated the Rangers 3-2 in regulation. The game put Carolina fans in a tough spot because they needed both teams to lose the game in regulation. Since this can’t happen, the next best thing was a regulation decision, and that’s what happened. The bad part is that Carolina was unable to create distance between themselves and Buffalo, but the good bit is that the Canes gained ground on the seventh place Rangers. With a game in hand, Carolina is now just one point behind the Blueshirts.
The Sabres have two games in hand on Carolina as they head into Raleigh for an epic game on Thursday. For both teams, two points is the only acceptable outcome.
Cory Stillman scored the first goal of the game at 5:25 of the first period, deflecting in a crazy pass from Erik Cole. Cole was knocked down at the bottom of the right circle, and he managed to center a pass as he was sliding on his stomach. Stillman was in the right place at the right time to bang it in. The goal was briefly reviewed to ensure that there wasn’t a kicking motion to propel the puck in. It certainly went off Stillman’s skate, but there clearly wasn’t any kick, and the goal stood up. Joni Pitkanen got the secondary assist. Stillman now has a modest two game goal streak going.
Eric Staal, who missed one game after suffering an “upper body injury” against Pittsburgh, got an easy goal for what proved to be the game-winner at 14:55 of the first. It was a power play goal, and Carolina was one for two with the man advantage for the game. Stillman made a nifty play from the right half-wall to get the defense and goaltender to overcommit to a shot. Instead, though, he fired a slap-pass to Staal just off the left post for the easy tap-in. This play was a perfect example of Stillman and Staal knowing each other well, and this is exactly why Jim Rutherford rented him for the rest of this regular season and playoffs. Joe Corvo got the secondary assist.
Carolina pretty much dominated the first period, taking the two goal lead and keeping play in the Florida end. The second period was a different story entirely as the Panthers came out with fire under their feet. They registered 17 shots in the middle stanza alone and it seemed like they had the puck in Carolina’s end for five straight minutes at one point. Newly recalled Panther Michal Repik had eleven attempted shots including one at a completely vacant net, but he fired it above the net. In the end, only four of his attempts counted as shots and none of them found the net.
Stephen Weiss, however, did find the back of the net. At 3:58 of the second, assisted by David Booth and Jason Garrison.
The third period was also controlled by the visitors, and they registered 18 third period shots for a game total of 42. Ward was on point and stopped all but one of those shots. That’s good and well, but the Canes can’t allow a team to put 42 shots against them. With no disrespect meant, this was the Florida Panthers. If they that kind of defense on Thursday against Buffalo, it’s going to be a long night for Carolina.
In his Hurricanes debut, defenseman Bryan Allen skated just 16:05, least among all defensemen not named Jay Harrison. He was credited with four hits and one blocked shot.
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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.