Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/27/09 at 12:26 AM ET
On Sunday night, the Hurricanes had their back against the wall in their own building. They responded with easily their best game of the series and a 4-0 shutout over the Devils. The series will move back to Newark for the decisive game seven on Tuesday.
Eric Staal had two goals and an assist. Ray Whitney had the game winner and three assists. Cam Ward pitched a perfect 28 save shutout.
This has been a beautiful series and is about as evenly matched as it could be. Each team has had one easy win. Each team has had one shutout. Each team has had an overtime win. This has been as advertised and then some. It’s a shame that neither team is named “Pittsburgh” or “Washington”, or there would have been more national teevee….
On an absolutely gorgeous spring day more suited for baseball or a trip to the beach, there were more important things to do: hockey.
Both teams came out of the gates flying, but Carolina seemed to have a slight edge early in the game. Five minutes into the game, Carolina got its first power play. They didn’t score, but they did manage to create four scoring chances during the two minutes. It was by far the best looking PP of the series. During the sequence, Jay Pandolfo broke his stick, turning it into a five-on-three and a half, but the Devils skillfully killed it off, thanks mostly to Martin Brodeur, who had to earn every penny of his paycheck.
Ray Whitney was buzzing early in the period, but nothing was happening. He fanned on a couple of one-timers and fanned on a couple of passes. However, he got over those yips at 10:32, and the Canes were off and running. Anton Babchuk, back in the lineup, did a fantastic job of denying a clearing attempt at the right point. He worked it over to Eric Staal for a grade A chance from the right circle that was answered by Brodeur. Just a few seconds later, Staal had another chance denied, but The Wizard legally batted the puck out of mid-air and into the net. It’s not saying much that Whitney legally batted it out of the air. He has to stand on a stepstool if he wants to get his stick above the crossbar. Anyway, it was The Wizard from Staal and Sharpie at 10:32.
First period ended 1-0 and the Canes had a huge advantage in SOG 15-4.
Eric Staal got off ye olde schneide at 4:44 of the second with a really nifty goal that happened just the way it happens in practice. Chad LaRose was skating towards the net in the slot, dropped a pass to The Wizard, who in turn dropped it to Staal. Staal fired it in low to Brodeur’s stick side. It was the second point of the night for Staal, Whitney and Sharpie.
At 7:30, Staal scored his second goal of the game and his fourth of the series. It was an absolute highlight reel goal. Timmmmmaay Gleason sprung Whitney with a long pass from his own end, leading to a two-on-one with Staal, who one-timed it from the right circle, beating Brodeur glove side. 3-0 Canes. Three points each for Staal and Whitney.
During the second intermission, the FS Carolinas crew interviewed Tim Gleason about his play against the ZZ Pop line. Since game three, that line has been dead silent. Gleason, meanwhile, second in the league leaders with 27 hits and fifth in the league with 14 blocked shots. His comment was vintage Timmay: “My job is to take their heads off. And to have fun doing it.” To which color commentator Tripp Tracy added “Within the framework of the rules”.
Carolina’s Achilles in this series has been goals against very late in the second periods. Brian Gionta has had two of them. Cam Ward withstood a furious rally by the Devils late in the period and made a great stop on Jamie Langenbrunner at 18:54 to hold the Devils at bay.
As the third period started to enter the middle stages, the Devils started to experiment with some shots from crazy angles. These saves weren’t particularly challenging for Ward, but he still had to be good to minimize rebound chances. He also had to protect his posts and be on the lookout for crazy caroms. Under the tutelage of Tom Barrasso, this is something he’s becoming very good at.
The third period became a parade to the penalty box for the Devils, and the Canes finally made them pay. The power play has been horrid and the Devil’s killing has been outstanding. It became too much when John Madden was whistled for cross-checking at 8:54, handing the Canes 1:18 of five-on-three time.
The Wizard found Jussi Jokinen with a centering pass across the slot and Jokinen easily beat Brodeur to make it 4-0 at 9:12. Joe Corvo picked up the secondary assist.
A few minutes later, after a skirmish in front of Cam Ward, Timmay and David Clarkson had a “fight”. They’ve wanted to go in other games, but the linesman always stepped in. This time, Gleason didn’t really want to go, but he obliged. Both players were given misconduct penalties. Michael Rupp was also given a roughing penalty and a ten minute misconduct. All penalties came at 12:15 of the third. I don’t really know what all the misconduct penalties were about, but none of it amounted to anything. Only that if any one of those gets an additional misconduct in game seven, they’ll face an automatic suspension. The misconducts in hand DO NOT carry over to the next round.
There was only one matter left in question, and Ward saw to that when he made a sensational save on Brian Gionta at 18:53 of the period.
This was a very good game if you’re a Carolina fan, and this series has been nothing short of spectacular. It’ll all come to an end on Tuesday night. While Boston and Pittsburgh are through to the next round, there is nothing at all certain about who will be playing whom in round two. We’ll know on Tuesday.
It’s amazing that in this game, Cam Ward wasn’t recognized as one of the game’s stars. In the last two games, he’s given up exactly one goal and hasn’t been recognized in either game. The official three stars went to Whitney, Staal and Gleason. I would have given them to Ward, Whitney and Staal.
I can’t say enough about how awesome this series has been and how incredible this playoff rivalry is and how incredible the goaltending duel has been. Not just this playoffs, but in the collective histories of the teams.
I can’t wait for game seven. The bad news if you pay attention to historical stats: Carolina has never won a game seven on the road. Nor Hartford for that matter, but that goes without saying since the Whale never won a single playoff series.
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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.