Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/08/09 at 01:16 AM ET
On Monday, there was a lot of contention amongst Hurricanes fans when rumors started to circulate that Rod Brind’Amour would be a healthy scratch for the Pens game. While some refused to believe it and some chose to have their feelings by it, the rumor had truth to it. Carolina’s 78 year-old Captain was exiled to the press box as a healthy scratch. The coaching staff finally decided that his five minutes of ice time should go to someone else.
On some teams, this might have made waves in the room, but it didn’t seem to upset the group in white tonight. When the final horn sounded, Carolina got its first road win of the season on their penultimate visit to the Mellon Arena.
Manny Legace managed not to get injured tonight, which disproves my theory about his health in the first seven days of December. Or at least it stops a bizarre trend. One other bizarre trend continued, and it was that Eric Staal registered zero goals and two assists for the third straight game.
Andrew Alberts scored his first goal as a Hurricane at 4:45 of the first on a pretty play set up by Ray Whitney and Staal. Alberts accepted a pass in the right circle and instead of passing it back to a forward in the slot, he made an aggressive move to the net, and in a move that would make Jussi Jokinen proud, he pulled it to his backhand and beat M-A Fleury cleanly and badly.
Jokinen added to the Canes lead at 11:36 on a Finnish Connection powerplay goal. From the other side of the red line, Joni Pitkänen spotted his countryman streaking to the Penguins zone. The stretch pass was perfect, Jussi stayed on-side, he split the defense, drew a hooking penalty and beat Fleury anyway. Normally the goal would nullify the delayed penalty, but since the Canes were on the power play, the penalty had to be served. Tim Gleason got the secondary assist.
The Wizard made it 3-nil at 2:26 of the third on a goal that I never really saw. His shot from the left circle beat Fleury five-hole, but because of the camera angle, it wasn’t visible. Pitkänen and Staal each got his second assist of the night on the play.
What happened next might have sunk the Canes a couple of weeks ago. For the thirteenth time this season, they surrendered two goals in a span of less than a minute. Instead of throwing in the towel and mailing it in for the rest of the game, they shoved back and played very well for the rest of the game.
First Sidney Crosby scored at 6:00 of the second. From near the bottom of the left circle, he found a small gap between Manny Legace’s blocker pad and the short side post. Bill Guerin and Kris Letang assisted on his 20th goal of the season.
49 seconds later, Mike Rupp scored on an almost identical shot. Same place on the ice. Same place between Legace’s pad and the post. Hands of Feet and Pascal Dupuis assisted on the goal.
Again, at this point, the Hurricanes could have given up as they have in other games. Paul Maurice took his timeout, settled the troops, and they protected their lead rather than gave it away.
There was no scoring in the third, but Carolina had two power play opportunities.
In the closing minutes, M-A Fleury was pulled for an extra attacker, and Legace had to be razor sharp in the last ten seconds. It looked like the Pens were going to score for sure, but Joni Pitkänen and Tim Gleason both made outstanding defensive plays. Pitkänen diving to the ice to protect the right post and Gleason doing the same on the right. It looked like the end of a playoff game the way those guys threw themselves all over the ice. And for the Canes it was a tiny bit like redemption after being swept by the Pens in the 2009 ECF.
Carolina will take their two game win streak to New Jersey on Wednesday night, and there’s a good chance that Cam Ward will be between the pipes. At that point, management will have a big decision to make. If Michael Leighton clears waivers, they can assign him to Albany, but since he has a one-way contract, it won’t save the club any money against the salary cap. Manny has a two-way contract, and he can be assigned without going through waivers, but the front office has already made it clear that they like Manny better.
Eric Staal has six points (0/6) in his last three games, and is looking great out there. Canes fans would rather see him score goals, but if he can contribute two assists every night, we’ll take that too.
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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.