The Carolina Hurricanes overcame a one goal deficit heading into the third period, then held on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout last night at the RBC, 2-1. The Canes started off a bit slowly and were outshot the first two periods 24-13, as they fell behind 1-0. But the team eventually cranked up the intensity as well as the pressure in the Buffalo zone, and tied the score in the decisive third period.
After a scoreless overtime, newly acquired Jussi Jokinen tallied the only goal of the shootout to give the home team the important victory.
Cam Ward played an excellent game and earned first star honors. At one point in the opening period, the Sabres had been out-shooting the Canes by a 6-1 margin. Ward kept the team in the game as he made one fine save after another.
Carolina was awarded several powerplays, including 34 seconds of a two-man advantage, but they were unable to capitalize. The powerplay has been ineffective for several games now, other than the two goals scored by Joe Corvo during two consecutive 5-on-3 situations against the Lightning last week.
Officially they were 0-6 last night.
In the third period as the Canes started to work harder on offense, Anton Babchuk rifled in the tying goal with a rocket shot from the point at about the seven minute marker.
Eric Staal dug the puck out behind the net and fed it to Mike Ryan, who found Babchuk all alone. Ryan had been moved up to the Staal/Ruutu line because of a suggestion by Tom Barrasso between the second and third periods. The recommendation paid off as Ryan showed off his genuine speed and meshed well with Staal. They generated a couple more chances during the period.
The overtime was pretty much dominated by the Sabres as they outshot the Canes 4-1, but Ward held his ground throughout.
Next came the shootout as once again, Ward was equal to the task as he stopped all three of the Buffalo shooters from scoring. (Pominville's shot hit the post, after grazing the goalie's shoulder).
Tuomo Ruutu shot first for Carolina, but was stopped by Lalime. Jokinen was next, skated in slowly, made a couple of moves, then finally saw an opening and wristed it in for a goal. Matt Cullen tried something similar, but was stopped.
The win gave the Canes 69 points, but that still is not good enough to push them out of 9th place in the conference. They are now tied with Buffalo, who still has a game in hand and is officially still in 8th.
Matt Cullen played an outstanding game and was probably the best forward for the Hurricanes. He hit the post on one shot and was doing a smooth job of puckhandling throughout. Unfortunately his linemates did not seem to be on the same page.
Cam Ward stopped 36 of 37 shots and looked smooth and confident in the shootout, which has been his downfall in the past. After the game, he said he tried just to keep positive thoughts in his head. Fans will hope that he can keep those thoughts until next time.
Rod Brind'Amour did a great job saving a goal during a scrum in front of the net in the first period. He and Patrick Kaleta seemed to have an ongoing disagreement throughout the game. It looked like the Sabre was trying to goad the captain into a fight, but Brind'Amour would not accept the challenge. Finally in the third period, the frustrated Kaleta took advantage of Brind'Amour while he was fishing out a puck along the boards, and leveled him. Kaleta was called for charging, and the captain was slow to get up. Maurice said after the game that he should be all right.
Frank Kaberle played a ton on the powerplay, (5:13), which was a bit surprising considering he had been a healthy scratch for several games. He was even on the ice for the 5-on-3. Pitkanen and Seidenberg each had 3 minutes of powerplay time while Babchuk only had 2. When asked about the change after the game, Maurice said that he was trying something new and he felt that the defenseman had a fine game.
After being outshot by the 23-14 margin for the first two periods, the Canes poured on 18 shots during the third.
Jussi Jokinen lived up to his reputation as being a shootout specialist. At one time with Dallas, he was 12 for 12 in those situations and he is known for being one of the league's best. That trade has big paid dividends already as Jokinen now has points in four straight games.
Cam Ward was asked about having to face Anton Babchuk's shot in practice. He said that it was not fun and he usually stood up when the big defenseman would shoot, so the puck would not hit him too high. He thinks Babchuk has one of the hardest shots in the league.
Mike Ryan has the speed to play along side Eric Staal, but does he have the hands to score? If Samsonov remains out, fans will probably find out in Atlanta.
Next up for the Canes will be a game in Atlanta on Saturday night. Will they ever be able to move up into the top eight and get into the playoff mix?