Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/22/11 at 11:44 PM ET
At this point in the season, the Hurricanes have to view every game as a “must win” and they know that they are also going to need some outside help to get into the playoffs. They entered play Tuesday night three points behind the eighth place Sabres. The Canes held up their end of the deal with a 4-3 win over the visiting Senators.
Cam Ward made 36 saves and Chad Sharpie LaRose had two goals to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 third period lead. The Sens scored a late goal to make it a one-goal game, then they prevented Sharpie from completing the hat trick. The regulation win temporarily put the Canes just one point back of the Sabres, who were playing in Montréal, but the Canadiens didn’t do Carolina any favours. Buffalo ended up winning 2-0, maintaining their three point lead over Carolina.
Carolina will be off until Friday, when they will play a back-to-back home-and-home with Tampa. Buffalo’s schedule will be much lighter: a Friday/Saturday home set against Florida and New Jersey. In order to stay in contention, Carolina will have to win at least one of those Tampa games, and obviously they prefer to win both. New Jersey has run out of luck, out of steam and out of time. They’re not going to roll over for Buffalo, but they now know that their miraculous run is over and that they’re not going to make the playoffs.
Carolina fell behind early, and with six minutes to go in the first, it was 2-0 for the visitors. Colin Greening and Marek Svatos notched goals, and it didn’t look very good for Carolina. Then, they got a bit of a good bounce on a Tuomo Ruutu re-direct, and the building came alive at 14:07. Jeff Skinner got the secondary assist on the goal for his 28th helper of the year. It’s the sweater-matching 53rd point of his spectacular rookie season.
Before the fans could sit back down, Sharpie beat goaltender McElhinney on the next shift with a quick shot from the left circle at 14:32. Brand new game, just like that.
Sharpie lit the lamp again at 18:17 of the second with a snap-wrister from the high slot. Now it looked like the Canes were in control.
Cory Stillman scored the fourth unanswered goal to make it 4-2 at 6:04 of the third, and it was the first time since February 25 and only the second time since the end of January that Carolina has scored more than three goals in regulation.
Erik Karlsson made it interesting by bringing the Sens back to within one at 14:16 of the third, and that was that.
Carolina captain Eric Staal left the game late in the third with an undisclosed concern and didn’t return. There was no collision or fall or cut or anything like that immediately before his exit, but he went to the room followed by the trainer and he didn’t come back. I’m sure we’ll hear the details tomorrow.
When the Canes game ended, they probably watched the end of the Buffalo-Montréal game in the room. At that point, Buffalo had the game’s only goal, and there was hope that the Habs could rally for the win on home ice. Unfortunately, Ryan Miller stood tall and Nathan Gerbe added an empty net goal to secure the win and restore the three standings point cushion over the Canes.
Now that Carolina has won two regulation games in a row, albeit against the two worst teams in the East, they might have some confidence. Now that they’ve scored a bundle of goals, they might have some confidence. They still haven’t been able to do anything on the power play, but they’ve managed to get the offense in gear, so there’s a lot to be taken from this.
This will be a huge challenge over the weekend. Not only do they need to win both games, but they’ve got to do it against a much stronger opponent than the ones they’ve just beaten.
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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.