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Red and Black Hockey

Habs top Canes in shootout thriller, Leighton hurt

On Tuesday, the Hurricanes earned one standings point and lost another goaltender.  Carolina had a one goal lead late in the third period, but Manny Legace gave up a bad goal to Sergei Kostitsyn which sent the game into overtime.  In the overtime period, Carolina had a man advantage for the final two minutes of play, but failed to cash in on the four-on-three advantage. 

The shootout went six rounds, with Maxim Lapierre getting the goal and Carey Price making an improbable skate save on Matt Cullen. 

Carolina has earned points in three straight games, and Brandon Sutter scored again.  These are good things.  But the rather bad news is that Michael Leighton suffered an apparent groin injury in the second period.

After making a sprawling but routine save with about eight minutes gone in the middle frame, Leighton was pulled during the teevee timeout and Manny Legace was left to finish the game.  There was no collision or anything like that.  It looked like Leighton stretched too far and hurt himself doing it.  Depending on the severity of the injury, Carolina will have to either call Justin Peters from Albany (which they’ve already said they don’t want to do) or find another veteran goaltender in the free agent pool.  This is a rather scary prospect. Given Jim Rutherford’s proclivity for bringing back players who have already been with the team, the jokes have already circulated that Arturs Irbe is just a phone call away.  Or Kevin Weekes, who only just retired this summer.  Unfortunately, the Canes don’t have much time to come up with a plan.  They’re hosting the Leafs on Thursday, and they’ll need to dress two goalies. 

Leighton allowed the Habs first shot on goal to beat him, but after that he was solid.  However, the Canes were unable to get things going in the offensive zone.  The Habs, who allowed nearly 60 shots against them on Saturday, made some adjustments and they only allowed the Canes to get 32.  Only six of those came in the first stanza. 

To start the second, things looked good.  Brandon Sutter converted a lovely give-and-go with Ray Whitney for his fifth goal of the season, banging it in from the low slot at 3:28.  Erik “Hab Killa” Cole got the secondary assist. 

Jussi Jokinen scored from the top of the right circle at 6:20.  Matt Cullen, who got the only assist, made a great play at center ice to prevent a Habs breakout, then turned it into a Canes break. 

Minutes later, Leighton was injured, and it became even more frustrating that the game was broadcast only by RDS.  My French comprension is pretty much limited to “and the faceoff will be to the right of (goalie)”, “Goal!”, “hooking”, and “high stick”.  Despite four years of high school French and one year of college French, I can’t speak at all, I can understand about 1% of spoken French and can understand about 2% of written French.  So whatever they were saying about Leighton was lost on me.  The official word from the team is the deliberately obtuse “lower body injury”, but it looks absolutely like a groin issue. 

Speaking of the French broadcast, there was one other thing that I did understand and I got a huge kick out of it.  In reference to Carolina’s recent franchise record tying 14 game winless streak, the RDS guys said something about Brass Bonanza, and then the two of them commenced to humming the song.  Magnifique!

Manny Legace was forced to work really hard, and he looked great for all but one very brief moment.  He faced 24 shots, and turned aside all but one of them.  A shot from below the goal line, even.  Had it not caromed off his right skate and into his goal, it wouldn’t even have registered as a shot on goal.  Andrei Kostitsyn got credit for the goal, assisted by Paul Mara and Tomas Plekanec. 

Thanks in part to the power play, Carolina fired seven shots against Carey Price in the overtime period, but he turned them all away. 

The shootout went scoreless all the way to the sixth round, when Kostitsyn beat Legace high on the glove side.  Matt Cullen had a perfect opportunity to force a seventh round when he made Price commit early, giving up the left side of the net.  The net was wide open, but somehow, Price got his right skate to the puck, and it stopped just before getting to the goal line. 

Despite giving up the crazy angle goal and getting beat in the shootout, I thought Legace played well.  And the rest of the boys played with confidence.  They didn’t look panicky or rushed.

I can’t say it enough, but Brandon Sutter impresses me more and more each game.  He played on the top line again tonight, and again, he proved himself to be worthy of the minutes and responsibility he’s been given.  He plays well on both specialty teams, he plays a very sound defensive game, and he’s getting better and better with his faceoff skills.  One day in the near future, he’ll be a team leader, a big-time goal scorer and a Selke candidate.  Maybe next season, he’ll have a breakout season like the one EStaal had in 2005-06. 

For now, the Canes need to focus on the more immediate future and the goaltending situation.  More news will develop overnight concerning Leighton’s situation, but we’re all hoping for the best.  Cam Ward isn’t scheduled to return for at least three more weeks, even if the injury wasn’t as bad as they originally thought.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: brandon+sutter, carolina+hurricanes, injuries, manny+legace, michael+leighton, montreal+canadiens

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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. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.