Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/04/10 at 07:23 PM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes hosted the Avalanche for the only meeting of the teams this season, and on the strength of play from the kids, Carolina emerged with a 2-1 overtime win. 18-year old Jeff Skinner showed off some fancy skills when he scored his eighth goal of the season. 21-year old Brandon Sutter potted his fifth just a minute and change into overtime to help the Canes snap a home losing streak that had reached three games. Cam Ward also made 34 saves in what turned out to be a marvelous goaltenders’ duel with Craig Anderson.
Other things went right for the Canes, including an amazing performance by the penalty killers and some strong play be the defense. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but in the end Carolina got two points out of it. That’s all that really matters. There’s no column in the standings for “ugly win” or “tough loss”.
The first period was scoreless, and for a long time, it looked like the Canes weren’t even going to register a shot on goal. After the Avs had piled up 12 SOG in the first eight minutes, Carolina finally got their first shot at 8:46 of the first. This elicited a huge sarcastic roar from the crowd. Carolina managed to pull closer in that statistical category, but the Avs dominated play in the first period.
In the second frame, Carolina was a little better, and the SOG were in the Canes’ favor. Neither team scored, and it was starting to look like there might be an old-school pre-lockout 0-0 tie. The Hurricanes’ penalty kill units and the blueline were really put to the test, and they passed with flying colors. Carolina killed off three consecutive penalties that actually amounted to a six minute power play for the Avs. The revolving door in the penalty box was finally stopped and there were no more Canes penalties for the rest of the game.
Jeff Skinner ended all possibilities of a scoreless tie when he showed his strength, stick skill and determination to earn his eighth goal of the season. He fired a shot on Anderson from the low slot, then Ruutu corralled the rebound and gave it back to Skinner. He tried a wrap-around, but Anderson stopped it. He kicked the loose puck back to his stick, then lifted a backhand shot top shelf from the goal mouth. Ruutu had the only assist, and it was marked at 4:50 of the third. On that play, you’d never guess that the kid is just 18 years old.
My seat neighbor commented that the Canes would need another goal, because one wouldn’t be enough. He was right. Milan Hejduk, who is both the oldest Av and the leading point-getter, leveled the score at the 12:51 mark. He made a dazzling move, stepping inside a Canes defenseman from the left wing and firing a wrister high to Cam’s glove side. Kevin Shattenkirk, who would later find himself in a very bad spot, got the only assist.
As the time in the third period wound down, it looked both teams were content to let the other team get one standings point so long as they could assure themselves of at least one. You can do that in a cross-conference game. I don’t like Carolina’s chances in the shootout, so I’d rather it not even get to overtime, but a point is a point.
Brandon Sutter took care of business in the extra frame, scoring his fifth goal of the season at 1:16 of OT. It started way down in the Carolina end when he won a faceoff. It ended when he took an indirect pass from Joni Pitkanen, chipped it past an Avs defenseman and ripped a hard shot over the left shoulder of Craig Anderson. It was his second game-winning goal of the season, and was a nice reward for a game well played. He’s laboring away on the third line, but he’s doing all the little things right.
One thing worth mentioning is the under-the-radar play of Ian White. He was brought in to help the Hurricanes clean up the area around Cam’s net, and he has done everything that’s been expected. Moving guys out of the goal mouth and taking away shooting lanes are not things that show up in the box score. Nor are all the little “understanding the game” things. He had a little move late in the third where he defended a play developing behind Cam. Not by attacking the puck carrier. Not by trying to make a big hit. He minded the store by putting himself (and his skate blades) in a position where there wasn’t going to be a shot from a freakish angle behind the net. It was a heady play that not many people will notice. I sure did.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Canes were very physical against a physical team. They had 46 hits. Tim Gleason had seven of those. Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu each had five.
There wasn’t much time for celebrating, as the Canes boarded a plane for Nashville, where they will play Saturday night.
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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.