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Red and Black Hockey

Road trip starts badly for Canes

The Hurricanes continued their annual late October extended road trip in desperate need of a win.  The Islanders were a winless team, but have been playing good hockey.  Unfortunately for the Canes, this was the night the Isles finally got into the win column.  After falling behind 3-1, Carolina mounted a third period rally to tie the game, which was ultimately settled in the shootout.  The home team converted all three of their shootout attempts, while the Hurricanes succeeded just once.

It was a night to celebrate Ray Whitney, who was playing in his 1000th NHL game and his 300th as a Cane.  Unlike last Wednesday, when he lit the lamp twice, he failed to light the lamp this time.  Eric Staal got off the schneid, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Canes to victory.

A lot of fans will find a lot of good things in this game, and a lot will only find the bad.  I wish I could be more of the former, but, regrettably, I’m not.

The first period was a bit of a disaster.  Carolina looked totally flat, and they were outshot by the Isles 13-8.  Matt Moulson scored his fifth of the season at 8:11 to give the home team a 1-0 lead.  He was all alone in the low slot and made no mistake beating Ward.  Andy Sutton got the helper via a very nice pass.

A few minutes later, Scott Walker and the much larger Brendan Witt exchanged knuckle sandwiches, with Walker getting a slight edge.  It looked like it might have been a kick in the pants and a morale lifter for the Canes, but they couldn’t get anything going.  A penalty late in the first, spilling over into the second looked promising, but Carolina’s power play looked the same way it’s looked all season:  bad.  There wasn’t any traffic in front of the net, the passing was sloppy, everyone looked a little out of sync. 

Dwayne Roloson, who has not played well this season, was giving up juicy rebounds, but there was never a Carolina skater in the low slot to pick up the loose change. 

Carolina’s second power play looked a little better, and they managed to cash in, even if it was lucky.  Matt Cullen, who recently got a $7 haircut, was credited with a power play goal at 5:34 of the second on what was supposed to be a pass.  Cully was at the bottom of the right circle, attempting a cross-slot pass to Joe Corvo.  The puck hit Isles defenseman Jack Hillen on his left skate and trickled past Roloson.  Eric Staal and Corvo got the helpers.  It was the first helper of the season for Carolina’s captain-in-waiting. 

Not to be outdone, the Islanders reclaimed the lead with a pinball goal of their own.  At 10:32 of the middle frame, fourth line right wing Tim Jackman potted his first goal of the season when his shot clanged off Rod Brind’Amour, then off Nic Wallin, then past Cam Ward.  Nate Thompson and Richard Park got the assists. 

Not even a minute later, the Isles stretched their lead to two goals.  At 11:21, Andy Sutton tipped a right point shot by Jack Hillen.  After a brief review to check for a high stick, the call on the ice was upheld and at 11:21 of the second, it was 3-1 Isles.  Blake Comeau got the secondary assist.

Carolina did a better job of putting pucks to the net in the second period.  They outshot the Islanders 17-9 in the period.  The passing was still less than crisp.  The skating was still sluggish.  The Canes still were putting the puck in each other’s skates rather than on each other’s tape or in the Islanders’ net.

Sadly, the Hurricanes lost the services of Tim Gleason in the second period.  On two occasions, he left the bench to go to the locker room.  At first, I assumed that he was dealing with some gastrointestinal issue.  He never came out of the room for the third period, and we later found out that he was having an “upper body concern” and had gone to get some x-rays.  No word yet on the precise nature of this UB thing.

The visitors had some chances to narrow the gap early in the third as the Islanders gave the Canes a couple of power plays.  Unfortunately, they were unable to take advantage.  In fact in the second of two third period power plays, the Hurricanes looked awful.  They gave up a few shorthanded chances, they couldn’t pass or skate, or even keep the puck in the zone.  Most embarrassingly, they forfeited the power play when they ended up committing a “too many men on the ice” penalty.  There’s absolutely no excuse for sloppy line changes on a power play.  None. 

A switch went off, just like it did in the Pittsburgh game, and the Canes righted their ship for a brief flash.  Unfortunately, two minutes of good hockey doesn’t make up for 58 minutes of sloppy and bad hockey. 

Eric Staal scored his third marker of the season at 14:01 of the third stanza.  At the end of a sequence in which the Canes moved the puck very well, Staal had the puck on his tape and a wide open net in front of him.  From the right dot, he fired a shot as if he was trying to shoot it through the net , through the end boards and through the wall of the arena.  It looked like weeks of frustration being vented, but more importantly, it brought the Canes to within one goal.  Ray Whitney and Joni Pitkänen assisted.

At 15:03, just like that, the Canes tied it.  The Finnish Connection of Joni Pitkänen and Jussi Jokinen hooked up to make it 3-3.  It looked pretty much like the game tying goal against the Devils in game seven of the ECQF.  Pitkänen’s pass from the left circle to Jokinen at the bottom of the right circle.  Jussi squeezed the puck into a postage stamp-sized hole on the short side.  Pitkänen was given the only assist on the play.

Nothing was solved in the final five minutes of regulation.  Or overtime.  It seemed like it would be fitting for Ray Whitney to get the game-deciding “goal” in the shootout, but it just didn’t happen that way.  Instead, Roloson and the Isles got their first win of the season. 

The Isles opted to go first and trotted Jeff Tambellini out there.  He wasted no time and didn’t do anything fancy.  Just a shot from the top of the slot that beat Ward cleanly. 

Sergei Samsonov’s attempt was stopped by Roloson. 

Frans Neilsen went second for the Isles.  He deked once and lifted a backhander past Ward.

Jussi Jokinen went second, as he always does.  He went really wide right, teasing us into thinking he was going to use his signature move.  He didn’t, but he still converted the attempt.

John Tavares went third for the Isles and clanged his shot off the left post and in.  All three Islanders shooters converted, and the shootout was over. 

I’m not going to be all gloom and doom about this.  There were good things.  The penalty kill was outstanding.  For the third game in a row and the fourth out of the last five, they were perfect.  Another good thing is tha the power play converted once.  They’re still having a terrible time getting it going, but at least they’re having some success.  They didn’t give up.  They rallied, dug deep and pulled themselves out of a hole.  Eric Staal had a two (1/1) point night for his first multi-point night.  Hopefully, it’ll get the ball rolling for him

What Carolina fans will want to know is when will the Canes play a full game.  They’ve shown us that they can be good for four or five minutes at a time, but that’s not going to cut it.  Not in any league, at any level, for that matter.

Up next, the Hurricanes will travel to Colorado on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday.  They may have to do it without Tim Gleason.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolina+hurricanes, eric+staal, joni+pitkanen, jussi+jokinen, new+york+islanders

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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.