Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/26/11 at 12:28 AM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes were again in “the most important game of the season”, and they emerged with a huge 4-3 regulation win over the Lightning. Jeff Skinner scored his 26th of the season, Eric Staal scored his 30th and Erik Cole added two. Cam ward made 18 saves. Unfortunately for the Canes slim playoff hopes, Buffalo also won its game. With eight games remaining, the Hurricanes remain three points behind the eighth place Sabres.
For the first time since the Truman administration, the Hurricanes tallied two power play goals in the same game. The power play has been one of many weak points for them this whole season, and it will probably be the one thing that we blame if/when the Hurricanes end up on the outside of the playoff mix.
Carolina has now won three games in a row, but the harsh reality is that they’re going to have to be blazing hot down the stretch. “Warm” won’t cut it. They’ll probably need to get twelve of the sixteen remaining points available. Every game matters, and they’d like some outside help from the Sabres, or even the Rangers. The Canes are five points back of the Rangers with a game in hand.
The win in Tampa was almost like a two-part game. In the first act, Carolina dominated play. Even though they gave up the game’s first goal in the first period, the Canes were the stronger team for most of the game. Simon Gagne scored a power play marker for the Bolts at 7:11. After that, Carolina was the only team on the ice for the next 46 minutes. For the second game in a row, they scored four unanswered goals to take a commanding lead.
Jeff Skinner scored his 26th of the season to equalize the score at 12:52 of the first. Some guy named Ron Francis scored 25 goals in his rookie season for the Whale and no other Whaler/Cane rookie has reached that mark.
At the end of the first period, the Hurricanes had outshot the Bolts 16-7 and they grabbed control of the game. In the second, Carolina registered eight shots to just three for Tampa, and Carolina scored the only goal of the period. Erik Cole put the Canes ahead for good at 8:23, just 30 seconds into a Steven Stamkos penalty. It was nice to see the power play strike.
Cole scored again on an outstanding individual effort at 6:50 of the third. He forced a turnover deep in the Tampa zone, then roofed a backhander past Dwayne Roloson to make it 3-1. Eric Staal then scored his 30th of the season at 12:20. It was another power play goal, the second of the game for Carolina. Again, it was young Steven Stamkos who was in the box. We had no way of knowing it then, but that goal, which made it 4-1, turned out to be the game-winner.
At that point, the Lightning hadn’t registered a single shot in the third period. At 13:17 of the final stanza, they finally got their first shot, and they made it count. Vincent Lecavalier potted his 20th to make it 4-2. Less than a minute later, Simon Gagne cashed in on a rebound of a Martin St. Louis shot to cut the lead to one goal. It was their second power play goal of the game. For the last five minutes of the game, the Lightning really amped up their game, and they had a few quality chances to tie it. Cam Ward, who didn’t have to work very hard in the first 53 minutes of the game, stood tall in the final minutes to preserve the win.
The same two teams will be back at it on Saturday night while the Sabres will be at home against the Devils.
The Canes were hoping for a little bit of help from the Sabres, who were hosting the Panthers on Friday night. They ended up winning 4-2 to protect their lead over Carolina in the standings.
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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.