Chad LaRose scored two goals and the Carolina Hurricanes set a franchise record by winning their 10th straight home game last night in front of 18,680 rowdy fans as they outlasted the New York Rangers, 4-2. The win puts the Canes into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one point ahead of both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Eric Staal started off the scoring with a powerplay blast just four minutes into the game, but the Hurricanes would follow that up with four consecutive penalties. Tuomo Ruutu took two of them, as one was a boarding penalty and one was goalie interference. Ray Whitney joked after the game that they might need to put a leash on the team's leading hitter. The Finn was fired up for this match.
The Hurricanes penalty kill was top notch though and was able to kill off all the first period powerplays. But the Rangers tied the score late in the first period on Corey Potter's first goal of the year, during one of the few even strength situations in the game up to that point. .
There were fewer penalties in the second period, but still enough to disrupt any continuous flow to the game. About six minutes into it, Chad LaRose had a chance at a bad angle, but hit the post. Just a bit later he joined in on another rush, this time with Eric Staal and Ray Whitney. Staal passed to Whitney who put a nice shot on Lundqvist, but the Ranger goalie made the save. LaRose was right there for the rebound though, and put the Canes up 2-1.
Later in the period, the Rangers powerplay was finally able to break through as Dan Girardi flicked a nice shot past Cam Ward.
With the game tied 2-2, the third period was pressure packed and the crowd was getting intense. The Canes used the energy from the fans and started applying more consistent pressure in the New York zone. After a couple of close chances, once again Chad LaRose would light the lamp, this time on a tic-tac-toe play from Jussi Jokinen and Ray Whitney.
Just 28 seconds later, Rod Brind'Amour would put the crowd into a complete frenzy as he flung a seeing-eye shot toward the net which hit someone and somehow found it's way past the Rangers netminder. The goal extended the captain's scoring streak to seven games and it probably also made his 1400th career game a bit more satisfying.
The Rangers would try to get something going later in the third, but Cam Ward and the defense was equal to the task and they held on for the 4-2 victory. Next up will be the Penguins on Saturday night.
LaRose now has 18 goals, crushing his previous career high of 11. Last night was certainly the winger's night. His NHL Network "Day in the Life" special was debuting while he was earning first star of the game honors.
Staal's tally was his 35th of the season. He was named second star and chipped in with an assist as well.
Ray Whitney had two assists and was named the third star.
After the game, there was not one negative word mentioned about the officials and the seven minor penalties called. Paul Maurice and each of the players accepted responsibility for being "too wired" for this matchup. The team was a bit worried about coming out flat at the start of the game because of the four day lay off, but the exact opposite happened, they came out with too much jump. The coach was not complaining though and said that there were worse problems to have.
The win was the seventh straight for the team, the most since they won nine straight back in the 2005-06 season.
Cam Ward was solid all night, once again. He made 36 saves on 38 shots and kept the team in the game while they were killing penalties, although the team defense was solid as well. At one point the Hurricanes were being out-shot, 19-5.
Patrick Eaves left the game early with an "upper body" concern. He had three hits for the night and was tied with Ruutu for the team's lead in that department.
Tim Conboy was the odd man out tonight as Maurice decided to go with Bayda, Walker, and Helminen on the fourth line. It seemed like Bayda and Walker still have the same chemistry they shared late last year, and Helminen is a steady performer.
The crowd was unbelievable in the third period, and probably had not been that loud since the playoffs. After Brind'Amour scored, it was absolutely spine-tingling. Of course, the players and the coaching staff could not say enough about the atmosphere after the game.
It was another quality team win and everyone contributed and gave it their all. This club looks very confident right now, and well they should.