Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/30/11 at 11:43 PM ET
On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes got a two huge standings points, and one of their few lopsided victories on the season. Rookie forward Jeff Skinner and rookie defenseman Jamie McBain each chipped in two goals to lead the way in a 6-2 pounding of the visiting Canadiens. Joni Pitkanen and Cory Stillman also scored for the Canes.
Meanwhile, at the HSBC Arena, the Sabres got a 1-0 shutout over the Rangers. This means that Carolina is still three points behind the Sabres (and now also three points behind the Rangers) with just five games to play. The Sabres have a slightly tougher road to hoe down the stretch, but the Canes can only concern themselves with their own games. The most important of the five remaining games is the home game against the Sabres on Sunday.
Skinner scored his 28th and 29th goals of the season in a four minute span of the first period, and it looked like it was going to be his night. He never did complete the hat trick, but he picked up an assist and was a huge force throughout the entire game. When he wasn’t doing things offensively, he was still in the heads of Les Habitants. He forced PK Subban to take a slashing penalty in the third and he drew a lot more attention down the stretch. Just one night after scoring a pretty goal and the game-deciding shootout goal against the Capitals, he had an even bigger night at home.
It’s pretty much down to Skinner and Logan Couture of the Sharks for the Calder Trophy. Of course I’m partial to my boy, but I think at this point that it has to be his. Skinner has 58 points to Couture’s 53. Skinner has 29 assists to Couture’s 23. Couture has 30 goals (one into an empty net) to 29 for Skinner. Both players have played consistently all season long, so it’s hard to give either one the edge there. Couture played exactly 25 games last season, so he’s still technically a rookie. Skinner, on the other hand, is a true rookie. Straight out of Junior Hockey. Advantage to him on that. For the record, the voting for that award is done before the playoffs begin, so that won’t have any bearing. There are some folks who insist that making the playoffs will be an edge for Couture versus Skinner, but I’m not sure that I buy that. That said, the last time that a player from a non-playoff team won the Calder Trophy was 2006, when Alexander Ovechkin was the obvious choice for that award.
In the second frame, Mike Cammalleri lifted the Habs back into the game with a power play goal at 5:23, but it didn’t take long for Carolina to restore their two goal lead. And to build upon it.
Jamie McBain scored his sixth of the season at 6:10, and it turned out to be the game-winner. Joni Pitkanen scored his fourth at 9:03. Two goals from the back end. Both were even strength goals and the biggest thing was that they didn’t let the pushback by Montréal get to them. At times this season, the Canes have let a goal like Cammalleri’s become a momentum shift. That wasn’t the case tonight, as they answered right back.
Skinner assisted on Pitkanen’s goal for his third point of the night. It was the fourth time this season that he’s had a three-point night. He’s yet to record a hat trick or a four-point game.
PK Subban made it 4-2 at 9:01 of the third with a hard shot from the point right off the draw. The power play goal was his twelfth goal of the season.
The third period was delayed for nearly 12 minutes after a pane of glass near the Canes bench shattered. Tuomo Ruutu delivered a hit to Hal Gill on the boards right near the stanchion at the turnbuckle at the end of the Canes bench. It wasn’t the glass by the ice that broke, but the perpendicular piece. The one that creates a wall of the player’s bench. Nobody was hurt, and it made a spectacular highlight.
Jamie McBain got his second of the night and his seventh of the season at 15:24 to again restore a three-goal lead. Sadly, this ensured that there would not be an empty net situation for Skinner to complete his hat trick, but I doubt that Skinner was even thinking about that. On the goal, Drayson Bowman got the primary assist for his first NHL point of the season.
Cory Stillman closed out the scoring with a power play goal at 17:47. The 6-2 final score was the most lopsided victory for the Canes since they shut out the Sens on December 29. The power play goal means that they have scored at least one PP goal in four straight games. They’ve finally found a way to make the man advantage work to their advantage.
The question is: is it too late?
The Hurricanes are on Long Island on Saturday. That should be a win. The Sabres are at the Verizon Center on Saturday. That should be a tight game, and on paper the Caps should win. If that plays out, it’ll be a one point buffer and a huge huge huge showdown on Sunday.
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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.