Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/04/11 at 12:32 AM ET
On Thursday night at the RBC Center, the Hurricanes and Sabres played a playoff-style game that had huge implications for both squads. The Sabres twice had a one-goal lead in the second period, but each time, the Canes answered back. The game was knotted at two after 60 minutes, and it took a scant 26 seconds of overtime for the Canes to win it 3-2.
Rookie defenseman Jamie McBain tallied the game winner with a blast from the right point with a screen from Eric Staal in front of the goal. Ryan Miller never saw it. It was McBain’s fifth goal of the season and his second career overtime game-winner.
It was a sweet win for the home team, and to make matters even better, the Rangers lost in regulation. This means that Carolina has 71 points and the Rangers 70. Carolina is now in seventh place and still holds a game in hand against the eighth place Rangers. The Canes would have preferred to have gotten this thing done in regulation to create some space between themselves and Buffalo, but the most important thing is that they got the two points.
None of the goals in this game were of the highlight reel variety. They were all the result of hard work in the dirty areas with traffic down low. The flow of the game was great and it played every bit like a post-season game.
There wasn’t any scoring in the first period and the Sabres outshot the Canes 11-7. Carolina, oddly, had a huge advantage in faceoff wins in the first period. The big difference, though, was that Carolina spent six minutes in the box to just two for the Sabres. Right out of the gate, Carolina’s newly acquired defenseman Bryan Allen gave the Sabres an advantage by shooting the puck into the crowd from the defensive zone. That was just 24 seconds in, and it felt like it was going to be a long night. Thankfully, Carolina’s killers stepped up to the plate and shut down Buffalo’s power play. After that penalty, Allen was really solid and deserves a ton of credit for his play. He finished the game with five blocked shots and was credited with two hits (although it seemed like it was a few more than that).
Steve Montador put the Sabres on the board at 4:35 of the second, and Jiri Tlusty answered for the Canes with a really ugly goal at 6:46. In the box score, though, it was a beautiful goal. McBain picked up one of the assists on the Tlusty goal, which put him at a surprising 20 helpers for the season.
Brad Boyes restored the one-goal lead for the Sabres at 10:12 of the middle stanza and Carolina’s Chad LaRose got the equaliser at 11:58.
Carolina controlled the closing minutes of the second, but they couldn’t manage to get another one past Ryan Miller. The Sabres had the edge in the third period, but Cam Ward stopped all eleven shots. Both netminders played very well, and they proved themselves to be playoff-ready. I do think that the Sabres will earn their way into the group of eight and that the Rangers will find themselves on the outside.
The Hurricanes won’t have any time to relax, as they head to Chicago for a game on Friday night. Not counting this set, the Canes still have six sets of back-to-back games remaining. While it seems unfair, it’s going to be good for them, as it’ll put them in a playoff state of mind.
This next two week stretch is going to be huge for the Canes. Of their next eight games, one will be against Buffalo, one against the Blackhawks, one against the Capitals, and five will be against non-playoff teams. This will be an excellent chance for the Canes to rack up some standings points and distance themselves from the pack. It’ll also be an opportunity to gain some ground against sixth-place Montr#&233;al. Out of these eight games, the Canes should hope to earn twelve of the sixteen points.
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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.