Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/29/11 at 11:42 PM ET
On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes got a boost to their slim playoff hopes, but there is an asterisk. The Sabres lost 4-3 in regulation to the Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes grabbed a huge 3-2 win on the road at Washington. This two-point gain puts Carolina just three points back of the Sabres, and Sunday’s showdown looks really huge right now. The only unfortunate thing is that Carolina’s win came via the shootout. Carolina has two fewer ROW wins than Buffalo, so as of right now, a potential standings tiebreaker would go to the Sabres.
Jussi Jokinen scored a power play marker in the second and Jeff Skinner scored a huge goal early in the third. In the shootout, Skinner scored in the top of the first. The Caps missed their first two shots, then Tuomo Ruutu iced it for the Canes with a successful shot in the top of the third.
Cam Ward made 38 saves to give him 2006 saves on the season. He’s just the sixth goaltender since the lockout to record more than 2000 saves in a single season.
After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes took the lead at 2:29 of the second on a Jussi Jokinen power play goal It was the third straight game that the Hurricanes have scored a power play goal. This normally wouldn’t be worth talking about, but since this run is coming after a really bad stretch of seven games without one, it’s kind of a big deal.
The Caps struck twice late in the middle period to take a 2-1 lead to the locker room. Alexander Semin at 14:18 and Marcus Johansson at 17:35.
At 1:46 of the third, rookie sensation Jeff Skinner notched his 27th of the season with a shot from the left circle that fluttered past Semyon Varlamov.
At the end of regulation, Cam Ward had made 33 saves, and he added five more in the overtime period. Carolina didn’t register any shots on goal in the bonus frame, where they really wanted to get the job done. They still ended up getting the two standings points, but they didn’t get another tally in the ROW column, and that might be a problem.
In the shootout, the Caps made the call to shoot second, which would be my choice every time. Carolina sent their normal trio of Skinner, Jokinen and Ruutu out there. Skinner scored five hole on his shot. Ward made a stop on Alex Ovechkin. Jokinen hesitated and was stopped by Varlamov. Nick Backstrom shot wide. Ruutu scored, and the Caps third shooter was irrelevant.
Carolina will back at it on Wednesday night with a home game against Les Habitants, who won 3-1 at home against the Thrashers on Tuesday. Also on Wednesday night, the Sabres will be hosting the Rangers. There’s a chance, then, for Carolina to climb within one point of Buffalo. It’s crazy, but if all goes well there, there’s a good chance that Carolina could overtake Buffalo on Saturday, just one day before the huge showdown. On Saturday, Carolina plays on Long Island while the Sabres play at Washington. I’ve been telling people that Carolina’s playoff hopes are already over, but tonight’s turn of events wasn’t expected at all.
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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.