The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Rangers last night by a score of 3-0, and leap-frogged them in the standings as well. The win pushed the Canes up to sixth place in the conference, a position they will gladly hold on to, at least for the next 24 hours.
Both teams started the contest a bit cautiously as neither of them wanted to make a mistake which might prove costly. The first period ended up in a 0-0 tie, but the Hurricanes couldn't feel too good about themselves after having wasted three powerplay opportunities.
About mid-way through the second period while the teams were battling through a four-on-four sequence, Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney had a two-on-one advantage, but Cullen could not quite get the puck over to his sidekick. Joe Corvo smelled an opportunity, deftly jumped into the play, and buried the loose puck which was just sitting in the crease.
After the game, Corvo said that he "had a feeling" that there might be a rebound chance or a loose puck there, and he just happened to guess right.
Both teams battled pretty evenly the rest of the period as each side finished with 13 shots on goal.
In the third period the Canes seemed to pick up the intensity and the home team started coming at the Rangers in waves. With Nik Antropov in the box for hooking, Rod Brind'Amour one-timed a closely contested shot past New York goalie Stephen Valiquette and the crowd erupted in appreciation as the powerplay finally broke through. Ray Whitney was able to slip the pass in to him.
The Hurricanes were not finished though as they kept the pressure going in the New York zone. About mid-way through the period, they held a demanding 9-2 advantage in shots on goal.
Cam Ward was strong, the defense stood firm in front of him, and the team held on until Tuomo Ruutu took an unselfish pass from Erik Cole and flicked the puck into the empty net to complete the agony for the visitors.
The win gave the Hurricanes four straight victories, (and five straight at home). Corvo also stated in the dressing room that he felt that this recent stretch is the most confident that the team has felt all season long.
They will need that confidence for their upcoming three game road trip which starts in Chicago on Wednesday night.
Cam Ward earned his fifth shut out of the season, and looked good doing it. He seems to have a very quick poke-check of late and confidently slapped several loose pucks out of danger.
The Staal/Ruutu/Cole line was dominating at times. Staal's speed is back and he and Cole look like they have never missed a beat. Cole made one beautiful play as he skated into two Rangers and made room for Ray Whitney who skated in alone. "The Wizard" could not score on the play though.
Ruutu led the team with five hits and Cole was right behind with four.
The defense showed some moxie when needed. Dennis Seidenberg cleared the crease of bodies more than one time, and even Joni Pitkanen showed signs of toughness in his own end when needed.
Once again Eric Staal led the way with eight shots on goal.
Ray Whitney mentioned that Rod Brind'Amour had been fighting a groin injury. It's been noted that the captain looks faster out on the ice the past few games.
Finally, counseling or not, Sean Avery is still a tool. But you already knew that.