The Carolina Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then held on as New Jersey made a game of it late in the third period, 3-2. The victory was the fourth in a row for the Canes, their longest winning streak of the season.
The Hurricanes took an early lead on a goal by Ray Whitney, just a minute into the game. Rod Brind'Amour picked up a loose puck, took it behind the net, and found Whitney cutting toward the net. "The Wizard" made no mistake, potting his first goal in six games.
The score remained 1-0 until close to the 15 minute mark of the second period.
With Zach Parise in the box because of a delay of game call, Joe Corvo made a move to the net, then passed to Sergei Samsonov. The Russian sniper has been red hot of late, but proved to be a bit lucky as well on this play as he rifled the puck toward the crease, hoping to find Tuomo Ruutu. Instead, the puck bounced in the net off of Jersey defenseman Paul Martin, and the score was 2-0, Carolina.
The goal was Samsonov's 200th of his NHL career. He has also now scored six points in his last four games.
The Canes opened up the third period with good puck movement and pressure. About midway through the period, they finally accomplished what they had been trying for as Eric Staal made a move deep into the Devils zone, then left a drop pass for Anton Babchuk. The Canes defenseman, who has suddenly found an offensive touch the past few games, made a nice move faking out Clemmensen, then sent a pass to Tuomo Ruutu who was cutting in toward the net. Ruutu was open and beat the goalie, making it 3-0.
New Jersey had not given up on the game though, and neither had their coach. After the Hurricanes were called for their first penalty of the game, a roughing call against Justin Williams, Brett Sutter pulled his goalie for an additional attacker, and the Devils scored while on the powerplay making the score 3-1. Paul Martin lit the lamp, his third of the season.
The Canes seemed slow to realize that there was an empty net on the other end, and did not take advantage. A couple of times it appeared like they cleared the puck without attempting a shot.
Coach Sutter would give them another chance though, and pulled his goalie again when Samsonov picked up a hooking penalty. This time the Hurricanes were obviously trying to take advantage, but could not put the puck in the net.
Jersey was putting on their best pressure of the night, but the Canes were equal to the task until the final seconds when the Devils crashed the net and scored again on a Patrik Elias shot. Once again, the Devils net was empty during the fray.
The Hurricanes have now won 6 of their last 7 at home and 8 out of their last 11 overall. The win gives them 47 points and helps to keep them at seventh place in the conference.
This was the first game since February 6, 2007 that the Hurricanes have played without someone being injured. Carolina suffered at least one man-game lost over the past 140 regular season games.
The team had a good chance or two to score their first shorthanded goal of the year, but failed to capitalize on the New Jersey open net during the third period penalty kills. They remain one of only three teams in the NHL without a shorthanded goal this season. I believe that Atlanta and Florida are the other two.
Matt Cullen had a great night in the faceoff circle winning 11 of 15 draws. Rod Brind'Amour won 50%, 9 of 18.
Tuomo Ruutu, Dennis Seidenberg, and Tim Gleason led the team with four hits each.
Tim Gleason and Anton Babchuk led the team with four blocked shots each. Seidenberg had three.
Once again, Joni Pitkanen led everyone with over 28 minutes of ice time.
You could say that the Canes beat the Devils at their own game as the home team pushed everything to the outside and played a low risk style of hockey most of the night.
Brett Sutter showed a lot of moxie pulling his goalie with over six to seven minutes to play in the game. It almost worked out for him.
There was much hoopla over the father versus son aspect to this contest, but Brandon Sutter laughed about it after the game. When asked if his father would critique his game later when they spoke, he answered that if his father was paying attention to what he was doing out there, that's probably the reason his team lost.