The Carolina Hurricanes had another slow start, fell behind by a score of 3-1, then rallied to tie the score in the third period before eventually succumbing to the Atlanta Thrashers, 5-3 on Saturday night at the RBC. Jussi Jokinen scored two goals and Joni Pitkanen had three assists, tying his career best for a single game.
The home team had a very slow start helped in part by a roughing penalty called on Pitkanen just seven seconds into the game. This might be a good example of how an untimely penalty can help a team get off to a bad start because not only did Atlanta have a powerplay, they had and kept the momentum throughout a good deal of the period as well.
Technically the Canes killed the penalty, but just a couple of seconds later Zach Bogosian would knuckle a long shot past Cam Ward to give the Thrashers an early lead. Then the visitors took advantage of their momentum by keeping the puck in the Carolina zone a good deal of the period and at one point were out-shooting the home team, 8-2.
The Hurricanes eventually did get a head of steam going and drew a penalty themselves with about two minutes left in the period. During the powerplay, Joni Pitkanen found Jussi Jokinen at the blue line and the Finnish sniper skated in alone as he deked out Atlanta goalie, Ondrej Pavelec to tie the score, 1-1. How many times has that pair accomplished that play this season?
In the second period, both teams battled back and forth fairly evenly. About midway through it, Eric Staal made a move at center ice and broke open in the clear for a moment. He was slashed on his way to the goal and was awarded a penalty shot, but Pavelec seemed to make a pretty easy save on the shot and Staal's attempt was denied.
Toward the second half of the period, the Thrashers started to dominate again. They controlled play in their end for good chucks of time and eventually scored two goals about a minute apart, one by Jim Slater and the other by Rich Peverley. Both goals were from in close.
In the third period, the Canes came out with more jump and drew a 5-on-3 advantage. After Peverly was called for slashing, Boris Valabik got into a shoving match with Eric Staal which escalated into a couple of punches being thrown. Much to Atlanta's coach, John Anderson's dismay, Valabik was the only one who got the call. (After the game, Staal said the Atlanta defenseman was not "brightest person in the world" and should have been called for shoving Staal into the net on a previous play.)
The Canes moved the puck around pretty well with the two man advantage and Jokinen would light the lamp on a nicely placed tight-angled shot. Carolina was not finished though.
Just one minute and change later, Ray Whitney knocked in a Pitkanen rebound to tie the score and the momentum officially turned to the home team. The score was 3-3, the crowd was into the game, and there was still 10 minutes plus to go.
But Ilya Kovalchuk would quiet the crowd just 44 seconds later when he ripped a high, hard shot past Cam Ward to give the Thrashers the lead back for good. It was one of those plays where the sharp-shooter had too much time and space. It looked like the Carolina defensemen had their men covered on the play, but a forward did not drop back far enough to stay on Kovalchuk and he the had time to make a perfect shot.
The home team looked a bit deflated after the goal and did not mount enough of an attack to tie the score. The Thrashers put in an empty netter to rub some salt in the wounds, and the final score was 5-3.
Next up will be the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
- The Canes had 32 shots on goal to 37 for the Thrashers. Eric Staal led both teams with a total of 10.
- Drayson Bowman had a decent debut as he finished with one shot on goal, two missed nets, and a really good hit while on the forecheck. Rod Brind`Amour set him up for a good chance in the second period, but he missed the net with his shot. After the game, the youngster said he was pretty happy with his performance. He said needs to make adjustments for the higher speed of the game and needs more experience playing at this level. When asked if his linemate and team captain had any words of wisdom for him, he chuckled as he replied, "Yeah, he said Samson had an assist on his very first NHL shift. No pressure or anything though."
- Aaron Ward led the Canes with three blocked shots. Ron Hainsey had seven on the other side.
- Carolina was credited with 31 hits led by Matt Cullen with six.
- This is the second game in the last three that Joni Pitkanen tied his career best with three assists. He's made a trademark of hitting countryman Jussi Jokinen for a breakout while on the powerplay. But apparently, the head honchos of Team Finland are not aware of that fact. It's still mind-boggling that Jokinen did not make the Olympic team, but maybe he will get in because of injury.
- The Hurricanes are now 1-15-4 when trailing after two periods. The Thrashers are 11-0-1 when leading after two.
- Staal and the Canes could have really used a goal with that penalty shot but it looked like he tried to squeeze one through the five hole which didn't make it. The last penalty shot by the home team on RBC ice was against Edmonton on 1/18/08. Eric Staal also took that one, but scored that time.