For the first time in 2010-11 season, the Carolina Hurricanes are on a three-game winning streak after again rallying from behind, this time defeating the Thrashers in a shootout, 3-2. It also marks the fourth straight game the Canes have managed at least a point, and the team finished it's five-game road trip with an impressive 3-1-1 record.
The win evened Carolina's record against the Southeast Division (3-3-1) and moved the team into sole possession of ninth in the Eastern Conference with 32 points through 30 games. Here are five observations from Thursday's road victory.
1. The addition of Troy Bodie and Ryan Carter has done exactly what the team hoped it could: give Carolina a legitimate fourth line that knows its role and executes it. Bodie — a little more on him later—has been better than expected, using his size and deceiving speed to wreak havoc in the offensive zone, while Carter’s penalty killing and faceoffs have made him an invaluable piece in what the Hurricanes are trying to do on a nightly basis.2. For the second straight night, officiating played a major role in the flow and perhaps outcome of the game. The Thrashers had a goal disallowed due to incidental contact with Cam Ward — the same call that was made against Carolina the night before on Jeff Skinner's no goal — and it seemed several calls were missed (a few high sticks come to mind) or questionable (a tripping call on Skinner). The calls seemed to go both ways, but that doesn't disregard the fact that the officiating was more questionable on Wednesday and Thursday than it usually is.
3. Two calls the refs did get right were sending Ben Eager off for charging Jiri Tlusty and later giving him a 10-minute misconduct for hitting Bodie at the end of a fight between to two. It may have been Eager's first game in a week, having been a healthy scratch the previous three outings, but the overzealous 26-year-old broke just about every "code" rule you can in his 6:22 of ice time. His hit on Tlusty — which came well after the puck was gone and with Tlusty on a knee next to the boards — is the kind of dangerous play the NHL is trying to eliminate from the game. Tlusty, who seemed to be rounding into form the past week, had his left arm in a sling following the game and is "longer than day to day" reports the N&O's Chip Alexander. Throw in his after-the-bell punches on Bodie — who challenged Eager for the earlier hit on Tlusty — and Eager's number will likely be remembered when the teams play five more times this season. That is if Atlanta coach Craig Ramsey even wants Eager is his lineup.
4. Not enough has been made of Brandon Sutter's beautiful goal at the start of the third period that lit a fire under the Canes. After Tuomo Ruutu dished the puck to Jamie McBain and then deflected his shot, Sutter miraculously swatted the puck out of midair to beat Chris Mason and get Carolina's engine running. Sutter's seven goals are now tied with Ruutu for third on the team behind Eric Staal (who got his 13th to tie the game) and Skinner (eight). It was also his third goal in the past six games. He had scored just one in the previous 12. His 20:15 of ice time was the second most he's had this season behind the 20:47 he played in the second game in Finland vs. Minnesota, also a shootout win.
5. Speaking of the shootout, not only has Jussi Jokinen got his one-on-one groove back, but Ward may be playing the best shootout hockey of his career. On top of being magnificent throughout regulation and overtime, Ward stopped two of three shooters to even his shootout record to 3-3 on the season. His .706 save percentage in the shootout is leaps and bounds better than the .462 (seven goals allowed in 13 attempts) he boasted last season and represents his best numbers since he stopped all three shots he faced in 2005-06. For those in need of a refresher, that was the home opener against Pittsburgh and Ward's first NHL start. He stopped 28 of 30 in regulation in overtime, then stifled Penguins shooters Mario Lemieux, Ziggy Palffy and a rookie name Sidney Crosby for the win — and the beginning of what turned into a magical season for Ward and the Hurricanes.