The Carolina Hurricanes played one of their best overall games of the season Saturday night as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1. The team played well in each zone during every period, held the Bolts to a lowly 21 shots on goal, and generated several scoring chances in just their second regulation win of the season.
After out-shooting the visitors and out-chancing them early in the first period, Tampa Bay would take the lead anyway about 15 minutes into it on a powerplay goal by Martin St. Louis. The winger squeezed his shot in at a very tight angle. Manny Legace joked after the game that the puck went in off of his big butt.
St. Louis always seems to have success against the Canes. That was his fourth point against Carolina in three games so far this season.
The Hurricanes were a little deflated after the goal, but would pick things up in the second period. Tuomo Ruutu continued his torrid scoring pace with a powerplay goal of his own just two minutes into the period. Ray Whitney found the Finn with a perfect cross ice pass and Ruutu roofed a one-timer past Mike Smith, who played an excellent game in goal for the Lightning in a losing effort.
Ruutu now has nine points in his last six games.
The Canes were buzzing much of this period and at one time were out-shooting the Lightning, 9-2. Jussi Jokinen scored yet another goal against the team that put him on waivers last year when he tipped a Joe Corvo shot past Smith at about the 13 minute mark.
That goal turned out to be the game-winner, the second game-winner in regulation for Jokinen this year.
Chad LaRose knocked the gorilla off his back when he scored the last goal of the game and his first of the season, on a wrist shot with just four minutes and change left on the clock. He took a pass from Sergei Samsonov into the clear and took his time for a perfectly placed shot. The helper was Samsonov's 300th career NHL assist.
After the game, the team seemed very pleased with the completeness of their effort and hard work and admitted that it was one of their better overall performances of the season. They now have earned points in their last five games and have won three of their last four.
Next up will be a road game in Dallas on Monday night.
- Manny Legace won his second game in a row with a solid effort in net. He certainly was not over-worked as he only faced 21 shots, but he allowed very few rebounds and was steady when he needed to be.
- Give the defense credit as they managed to get sticks on several of the opposition's shots and helped out Legace when he was pressured the most. The team blocked 17 shots, led by Stephane Yelle and Tim Gleason who had three each.
- The Canes had 36 hits with Gleason again leading the way with five. Niclas Wallin also had five. Gleason had the hit of the night when he lined up Victor Hedman for a perfect hipcheck.
- The home team had scoring chances galore, especially in the first period, and came close but could not connect. Once again, if not for the efforts of Mike Smith, the score could have been much worse for the Lightning.
Joni Pitkanen had five shots on goal in the first period, the most for any Carolina player in a single period all year. He kept trying to ram a slap shot through to the net, and came close a couple of times to making something happen. Pitkanen also had a team high three takeaways and finished with six shots on goal for the game.
- Paul Maurice was very happy with the defenseman's game. The coach said that he brings a different dynamic to the team when he is on the ice. Not only is he able to bring the puck out of the Hurricanes' zone by himself if needed, he can create a lot of possibilities in the offensive zone. Now, if he could only stay healthy.
- Rod Brind'Amour played on the fourth line and had 11:49 of ice time with only five seconds of powerplay time. He might have played one of his better games.
- For the most part, Maurice rotated four lines as everyone got double digits of playing time. Low man was Chad LaRose with 10:19. Even Patrick Dwyer had 11 minutes of ice time. This is the strategy the team wanted to employ all season, but they rarely actually did it.
- In his four games this season, Manny Legace has not allowed a goal in the second period. That period used to be the worst for the Canes as the team had allowed more goals in that period than any other one.
The Hurricanes now have a total of 15 points but they are still quite a ways behind the contenders. The team still needs a few more wins in order to claw their way back into the mix. They now have a 5-5-2 record at the RBC. The next step is to win their first road game of the season in either Dallas or Anaheim next week.