The Carolina Hurricanes responded in a big way to their game one loss with a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in overtime on Friday night at the Rock. The visitors wanted to show more life than they did on Wednesday night and they answered by hitting everything in sight during game two. If anything, they were almost too physical as they spent much of the night killing penalties while the guilty parties sat in the penalty box. Still, it's the type of game they wanted and it ended up working to their favor.
After a quiet opening game, Eric Staal answered the call and had an excellent night. The Devils took the lead on a Zach Parise goal midway through the first period, but Staal scored with just 25 seconds left to tie it up. Ray Whitney fired the puck off the end boards and the puck came right to Staal who put it past Martin Brodeur. The Devil's goalie had come out of the net to challenge Whitney's shot on the play. Was it a pass by "The Wizard" or a missed shot? It wouldn't be the first time he made a pass off of the end boards.
The Hurricanes were called for four penalties in the period and gave up one powerplay goal on Parise's tally. But the Devils were called for three of their own and Staal's goal was with the man advantage as well.
The second period went back and forth and was pretty evenly played. Both teams had 11 shots on goal, but again the Hurricanes were called for two penalties while the Devils stayed out of the box this time. At some point during the period, Jersey lost team captain Jamie Langenbrunner to a lower body injury. He did not return to the game.
In the third period, both teams had a chance on the powerplay, but neither could take advantage. Apparently, the game was destined for overtime as both Parise and Ruutu would draw iron on their best chances.
The overtime period belonged to Carolina as they spent almost all of it in the Devils zone, while outshooting the home team 5-0. Tim Gleason got a nice pass from Joe Corvo, closed his eyes, and ripped a shot toward the goal which hit someone and bounced in the net past Brodeur. Eric Staal was providing an invaluable screen and should be given an unofficial assist.
The goal was the first of the year for the defenseman who said afterwards that winning the game was nearly the highlight of his life. Hurricanes fans will be hoping he has more highlights later on in the playoffs.
The Canes earned home ice advantage with the win and accomplished exactly what their original goal was, to at least get a split in New Jersey. The next game will be Sunday night at 7:30 and some tickets are still available.
The Hurricanes outhit the Devils 32-24. Tim Gleason had six, Tuomo Ruutu five, and Joni Pitkanen four. Both Ruutu and Pitkanen had a couple of others which counted as penalties instead of hits. It was unusual to see Pitkanen trying to rough it up out there but he should continue to take more advantage of his size, just be a little more intelligent about it.
Pitkanen also led the team with six shots on goal. To his credit, he almost won it in OT just before Gleason when he sent a bouncer in on net. Staal was next with four shots.
Cam Ward had a great game and made 33 saves on 34 shots.
The penalty kill unit did very well for the most part, especially considering that they had to kill what seemed like several consecutive penalties in the first period. Strangely enough, the Hurricanes, (who are the least penalized team in the league), have been called for more penalties than the Devils in both games.
The Canes seem to own the Devils in OT and are 5-0 against them when it gets to the extra period. When asked after the game what his secret was, Paul Maurice joked that he sends out defensemen who have not scored all year, to win the game. Apparently some of the sportswriters did not get the joke. The offensively challenged Nic Wallin has won a couple of OT games himself against the Devils.
Tim Gleason mentioned the term "Candy Canes" during the post game interview and apparently did not like it. He wondered if the team will still be referred to that way.
Can the Canes take advantage of home ice and keep up their physical tendencies? One thing for sure, the RBC will be rocking.