Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/09/09 at 12:00 AM ET
On Friday night, in front of a packed RBC Center crowd, the Hurricanes seized control of the Eastern semifinal series with Boston. They won the game 4-1 behind two goals from Eric Staal and now have a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game five will be Sunday night in Boston.
Eric Staal scored his eighth and ninth goals of the postseason and has passed some guy named Ron Francis on the franchise postseason scoring list. He stands alone as the most prolific Hurricane in postseason play.
For the second game in a row and the third in these playoffs, Jussi Jokinen got the game-winning goal, his sixth of the second season. The newfound crowd favorite added two assists and earned the first star of the game.
Read on for full details including a great highlight…
Carolina got the ball rolling at 4:54 of the first with a power play marker from number 12. He fired one in from the right dot, and it didn’t exactly beat Tim Thomas cleanly, but it beat him nonetheless. Erik Cole and Ray Whitney got the helpers. The whole thing, however, was the result of a brilliant play by Cam Ward. Joe Corvo committed a terrible turnover at Boston’s blue line, and Per Joken Axelsson was off to the races with a shorthanded breakaway. His mamma calls him “Per Joken”, I’m gonna call him “Per Joken”. Anyway, Ward stoned Axelsson, and made the split second decision to play the puck off to Staal rather than freeze it. Seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Bruins’ net. If he had made the other decision, there would have been a faceoff deep in the Carolina end, and anything could have happened. High marks to Ward.
At the end of the first, Carolina had a marked edge on SOG. 12-4 to be exact. However, play was a lot more even than that stat would suggest, and the Canes were actually pretty lucky. Two Bruins clanged shots off the right post (remember, these don’t count as SOG), and Axelsson failed to convert his breakaway. It could have easily been 3-0 Bruins.
Mark Savard knotted the score at 2:37 of the second with a power play goal that was kind of similar to Staal’s. The quick shot came from somewhere near the bottom of the right circle, and it appeared to hit Cam Ward before going in. The Rechhin’ Ball and Michael Ryder got the assists.
The Hurricanes’ new fan favorite, Jussi Jokinen was once again the hero. He potted his sixth postseason goal at 2:52 of the third for what would prove to be the game winning goal. This was his third such goal in these playoffs. Rod Brind’Amour, from the back of the net, picked up his first point of the postseason with a no-look pass. Anton Babchuk got the secondary helper. This was also Babchuk’s first point.
This whole thing was set up because Zdeno Chara was in the box for hooking Erik Cole. Chara was an absolute beast in a previous penalty kill situation, staying on the ice for the entire two minutes. With him not only off the ice, but in the bin, Carolina had a lot more flexibility to do what they wanted to do near the net. And it paid off.
As the period wore on, it looked like it would be yet another tense game, going all the way to the final minute. However, the Canes had other plans.
Sergei Samsonov scored an absolutely stunning goal at 14:31. He completely undressed Dennis Wideman deep in the Boston zone, just as he did to Chara in overtime of game three. SerSam put on one of his signature “dancing” maneuvers, then wristed a backhander past Thomas to give the Canes some cushion. Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu got the assists. Ruutu took some punishment in the Carolina end on the play, but still made the play, advancing the puck to Jokinen. After that, it was all Sammy.
They weren’t done yet, though. Eric Staal added to his highlight reel with a beautiful goal at 15:41. During a four-on-four sequence and with a delayed penalty in hand, Staal hopped over the boards as an extra attacker, picked up the puck and sniped it into the short side from the bottom of the right circle. Joe Corvo and Jokinen assisted on the goal.
Staal now has 40 (18/22) career playoff points in 36 games played. His nine goals this postseason is tops in the league.
Carolina will now have three chances to complete the knockout of the number one seed in the East, starting with game five on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Penguins completed the sweep of their two games and have leveled the series with the Caps. I think it might finally be lights out for the Caps. I know the series is tied at two and it’s now a best of three series, but I don’t think Washington has anything left. And now that Simeon Varlamov has been proven to be human, the Pens are looking pretty good.
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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.