Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/06/11 at 01:07 PM ET
On Saturday night with an opportunity to climb into the playoff picture, the Hurricanes seized the moment. Sort of. While any win at all would do the trick, they would have preferred to have won in regulation against the Thrashers. It marked the third time this season that the teams have played each other, and each game has gone into extra time. Carolina has earned the extra point each time, but it has also allowed Atlanta to get the consolation point. This could come into play at the end of the season.
Both Cam Ward and Ondrej Pavelec were outstanding in nets. Both goalies faced 37 shots. Both made spectacular saves. Both played well enough to win.
Erik Cole’s coast-to-coast play was capped by a wrister from the right circle to win the game for the Canes at 2:48 of overtime. It was Cole who also scored an overtime winner the last time the teams met, and the final score was the same—4-3. Brandon Sutter had a huge goal and a really good night in the faceoff circle. After the jump, I’ll detail the reasons that I had him as my first star. Jiri Tlusty also had a big goal and the Captain scored his 26th of the season to start things off for the Canes.
With the Circus in town, the Hurricanes will now embark on a five game road trip that begins and ends in New Jersey. They’ll hope for six out of ten points on the trip, but will settle for five.
Although the crowd turnout was a little less than what they wanted, the energy in the building was great. Both teams knew exactly what this game meant, and they played like it. There was a lot of intensity, some temper flares, some hard hitting, and it looked every bit like an actual playoff game.
There were lots of ebbs and flows to the game, and neither team ever led by more than a goal. Carolina had a chance to salt it away with an empty net and six skaters on for the Birds in the final 90 seconds, but Atlanta kept the puck in the Carolina zone and ultimately got the equalizing and overtime-forcing goal from Zac Bogosian at 18:36 of the third.
Brandon Sutter, as I said, had a huge night in the faceoff circle. 18 up and seven down for a win percentage of 72%. As a team, they won 60% of the draws, which is something they haven’t been able to do all season. Two of Sutter’s wins were intrumental in this Carolina victory:
- at 5:39 of the third, Sutter won a defensive zone faceoff after Erik Cole was penalized for tripping Evander Kane. Carolina had two men in the box and Atlanta had a man about to come out of the box to make a four-on-three become a lengthy five-on-three. Suttsy won the draw cleanly and aggressively carried the puck deep into the Thrashers zone. This not only melted a few seconds off the power play, but it allowed Carolina a chance to regroup and change its personnel. Sutter stayed on the ice for a long shift of 1:19 during which he blocked two Dustin Byfuglien shots.
- On his very next shift, Sutter won a defensive zone faceoff cleanly and ended up beating Pavelec with a wrist shot from the high slot. He was far and away the best player on either team at that point. He didn’t rest on his laurels after a heroic shift, but instead ratcheted it up a notch.
This year, Sutter has been asked to center the third line, which means that he isn’t getting the scoring opportunities that he’s had in the past. Instead of sulking about it, he’s embraced the different responsibilities and he’s becoming a much better all-around player. If there were ever any doubts about giving him the A on the front of his sweater, he’s answered those doubts this season. Those two consecutive shifts are a good example of the way he always plays. He doesn’t always get the attention, but he always brings that same level of play.
The Hurricanes have the whole day off today. No practice. Nothing. Just watching some football game. They’ll practice in Raleigh on Monday, then head out on the road. They start the trip in New Jersey on Tuesday, then Philly on Thursday, Tampa on Saturday, Atlanta on Sunday and New Jersey again the following Wednesday. This will be a great chance for the team to bond and all that good stuff. During this trip, though, they’ll have to keep their eyes on the Thrashers, who only play three games (Leafs, Rangers, Canes) during that stretch. They’ll also have to look out for the Sabres, who are not very far behind the Canes (and with games in hand). The Sabres play Tampa, Florida, Islanders, Habs and Leafs in that stretch.
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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.