Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/05/09 at 06:08 PM ET
Erik Cole potted three goals this afternoon as the Hurricanes beat the visiting Canucks 5-3. Ray Whitney contributed a goal and two assists and Eric Staal had two helpers of his own. Matt Cullen couldn’t stretch his goal streak to four games, but with one assist, he extended his points streak to five games.
Manny Legace let in a soft goal in the first, then two great Canucks goals in the third made things a bit tense, but in the end the Canes prevailed.
Carolina remains in the NHL’s cellar, 12 points out of eighth in the East. They are about to embark on a four game road trip, and the road hasn’t been kind. They are 0-10-3 away from the RBC Center.
Cam Ward is hoping to return next week, possibly as early as Monday at Pittsburgh. The timing could be perfect, for a number of reasons…
I’ve already written about Manny Legace’s crazy history with injuries in early December, and it’s the Pittsburgh game in which he’s scheduled to suffer a knee injury. You can’t argue with history and there’s a ridiculously consistent pattern with Legace and December. I’ll touch back on this later.
When Ward returns, there’s a decision to be made. Manny has played respectably, but is on a two-way contract. Michael Leighton has a one-way deal, but hasn’t been all that great. There’s only room for two goalies, so they’ll have to reassign Legace or do something with Leighton. Honestly, I don’t think it would be fair to Legace, who has not only played “respectably”, but he’s had to carry the bulk of the load. The organ-eye-zation has spent a lot of energy developing Leighton, but he’s seeing really spotty action, even with Cam Ward out of the mix. Will they trade Leights away? Will they waive him for the purposes of reassigning him? I honestly think that one of those scenarios will play out.
Back to today’s game:
Things got off on the wrong foot when Jannik Hansen scored from the top of the right circle. It looked like it was less of a shot and more of an attempt to get the puck deep, but Legace misplayed the shooter and the shot, letting it carom off his glove and into the net. Henrik Sedin got the only assist. Strangely, Daniel Sedin wasn’t on the ice.
20 seconds later, The Wizard tied it up with a pretty goal. From the left circle, he lifted a rolling puck over Andrew Raycroft’s left shoulder. Assists to Eric Staal and Aaron Ward.
Carolina got three goals in the second to build a big but uncomfortable three goal lead. First it was Erik Cole at 3:55 with a wrister from the high slot. Ray Whitney and Tim Gleason assisted, but a tertiary assist should go to Eric Staal who was alert enough to get out of the way of the cross-slot pass.
After the Canucks handled the puck poorly in their own end, leading to a turnover, Sergei Samsonov danced around a little bit then beat Raycroft. Tuomo Ruutu and Matt Cullen helped on the goal, which came at 6:06.
The strangest Hurricanes goal of the season ended up being the game-winner and it was credited to Erik Cole. After a flurry of shots and a bunch of bodies in the crease, Andrew Raycroft appeared to have the puck frozen for a stoppage of play. Play continued and somehow the puck squirted into the net. Referee Marc Joannette was in good position and saw what I finally saw after reviewing the replay a dozen times or so. Nucks Defenseman Willie Mitchell was laying on the ice with the puck lodged under his left skate at the very top of the crease. Raycroft had his glove on top of Mitchell’s skate. As Mitchell twisted his body and legs to get up, the puck catapulted into the net for a Canes goal. Erik Cole was the last Hurricane to touch it, and he got credit for it. Ray Whitney and Eric Staal each got his second assist of the game. 18:59 was the time of the second period.
Carolina had been in this position pretty recently. Up three goals headed into the third, only to end up losing the game. So we knew not to assume anything.
Steve Bernier gave the Nucks life at 10:07 with a tap-in of a centering pass from Mikael Samuelsson. Kyle Wellwood had the second helper.
Things got really interesting at 14:45 when Alexandre Burrows bunted one out of mid-air and into the net. The goal was reviewed, and replays confirmed that his stick was just below the height of the crossbar when he batted it.
With the one goal lead and time winding down, another strange play almost put the outcome of the game in jeaopardy. A Hurricanes player was attempting to wheel the puck out of the Carolina zone. It sailed high, and Sergei Samsonov attempted to bat it down and out of the zone. He didn’t hit the puck, and the puck hit a Nucks skater in the face. The referees called high-sticking on Samsonov, even though it was the puck and not his stick that hit the Vancouver player. Whether they liked it or not, the Canes had to kill off the penalty. And they did.
With Raycroft pulled for an extra attacker, Carolina had a few cracks at the empty net, and Erik Cole finally got it at 19:46. This is the first hat trick of the season for a Canes player, and also the first empty net goal.
Carolina will play in Pittsburgh on Monday, and we’ll all be holding our breath for the health of Manny Legace. Of course Cam Ward might start, which would raise the other issue, but we’ll worry about that when we get to it.
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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.