Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/12/08 at 02:23 AM ET
For the second time in as many nights, the Hurricanes dug a hole for themselves in the first period. For the second time, they climbed all the way out. This time, they needed overtime to do it, but they beat the Lightning 4-3.
On Friday night, Carolina got scoring from a bunch of unlikely sources. Tonight, they brought out the big guns. Matt Cullen had one marker, Rod Brind’Amour had one, and Eric Staal had two, including the game-winner.
Carolina was very sluggish and undisciplined early on, but as the game wore on, they were the team with all the jump and none of the penalties.
Carolina’s old fried Mark Recchi scored the first goal at 8:20, assisted by Matt Carle and Jussi Jokinen. It was an odd play where Carolina netminder Michael Leighton had no chance. Carle’s shot was deflected high in the air out front. Leighton didn’t know where it was, but Recchi spotted it, waited for it to come below the height of the crossbar, and swatted it in.
Next was another goal where Leighton had no chance. After a beautiful feed from Vaclav (who I refuse to call “Vinny”) Prospal, defenseman Janne Niskala fired a bomb from the high slot for a power play goal and a 2-0 lead at 10:27 of the second. It was his first NHL goal. Jamie Heward got the secondary helper.
Carolina committed three penalties in the middle stages of period number two, resulting in an extended five-on-three sequence for the home team. “The Horseman” made them pay with what seemed like a coffin-sealing goal at 9:01 of the second. He fired it in from the right dot, assisted by Marty St. Louis and Heward.
Almost as if a switch went off at the 10:00 minute mark of the middle frame, the Bolts lost their composure and Carolina gained theirs. Tampa committed four straight penalties in the second period, giving Carolina the equivalent of a very long power play.
Finally, at 19:51 of the second, just a five-on-three lapsed into a normal power play, Rod Brind’Amour tipped a shot by Joni Pitkänen past Mike Smith. Coaches always say you should never surrender a goal in the waning seconds of a period, and by the end of the night that turned out to be the game-changing play. Secondary assist to Ray “The Wizard” Whitney.
The third period was all Canes. Carolina got off 20 shots compared to two from Tampa in the third period. Two! Michael Leighton could just as well have been at that baseball game as between the pipes.
Matt Cullen scored his second goal of the young season on a rebound stuff-in just off the right post. The power play goal was assisted by Brind’Amour and Pitkänen, each of whom picked up his second point of the night.
The momentum was shifting towards Carolina already, but there was a sequence that seemed like it lasted two minutes with the line of Sergei Samsonov / Eric Staal/ Tuomo Ruutu cycling the puck deep in the Bolts zone, taking shot after shot while keeping the puck deep and the Tampa defense tired. That amazing shift culminated in the game-tying goal from Eric Staal at 9:56. Dennis Seidenberg and Tuomo Ruutu helped.
At this point, the game was tide, but the tide had changed. Carolina was now very much in control of the game, and the Bolts were probably hoping just to survive regulation and muster a point out it after squandering the three goal lead.
With exactly two minutes to play, the Hurricanes were penalized for delay of game when Sergei Samsonov cleared the puck from the defensive zone over the glass and into the crowd. It would have been a fantastic chance for the Bolts, but the didn’t get a single shot on goal during that perfect opportunity.
In the overtime period, it was more of the same. Tampa had run completely out of steam and much of the action was in their defensive zone. Eric Staal won it at 4:37 when he and Ray Whitney came in on a two-on-one. Whitney faked the shot from the right circle, Smith committed to that, and Staal had a yawning net. He made no mistake, potting his second of the night.
The “official” three stars went to Mike Smith (third), The Horseman (second) and Eric Staal (first)
Fox Sports Carolinas gave them to Rod Brind’Amour (third), Eric Staal (second) and Joni Pitkänen (first)
Mine are a little different. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Jamie Heward, TBL—- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Joni Pitkänen, CAR—- 2 assists, 7 SOG, 3 hits
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR—- 2 goals, GWG, 8 SOG
Carolina will return home to host the Red Wings on Monday, when they will debut the third sweater. After that, the North Carolina State Fair will force them on the road for their annual mid-October 6 game road trip.
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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.