Joni Pitkanen has heard it many times. He should shoot more, he should shoot more.
Well, the defenseman from Finland showed the world why everyone wants him to shoot it more on Friday night when he blasted a shot by goalie Al Montoya with just 1:02 left in OT, as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders 3-2, in the extra period in front of a loud 17,626 at the RBC.
Jeff Skinner set up the play and made a picture perfect pass that the defenseman could step into. "I was originally looking for Staaler on the play," said the rookie, "but saw Joni beat his man and passed it to him."
Skinner had a pretty good game himself as he knocked in the Hurricanes first goal of the game late in the first period when Jussi Jokinen found him on the doorstep. It was his 25th goal of the season.
Ward had another amazing night and stopped several point blank chances as well as a couple of breakaways by Michael Grabner. He was named the game's first star by Yahoo!.
It was Grabner who would give the Islanders the lead about three minutes into the second period. The Islanders controlled most of the play in that period as they outshot the Canes 17-8 and took a 30-19 total shot advantage heading into the third period.
Skinner said the team got some talking to from the coaching staff during that intermission, reminding the team how important this game was. Paul Maurice said he thought the team looked tight.
"We looked tense," said Maurice. "Tonight was the first game I thought we came out looking a little tight."
The coach went on. "I thought when it got to 2-1, we struggled with it. They're a very quick team, they've got a lot of speed. But we played a hard, hard third period. I don't think we had a lot left, I really don't. But the fans were great, they stayed with the team and they willed it."
The Canes came out harder in the third period, but again came close to scoring several times without benefit of a goal. Finally, Cory Stillman made a good play behind the net when he took the puck, then fed it to Erik Cole who made his way open in front of the net.
Cole was stymied by Montoya a couple of times earlier in the game, but he made no mistake with this one and lifted the puck into the upper corner of the net to tie the game with just 4:37 left on the clock.
The rest of the third and OT went back and forth until Pitkanen put it away, helping keep the Hurricanes playoff hopes alive. The team is tied with eighth place Buffalo with 76 points, but the Sabres now have two games in hand.
Quick Stats and Thoughts:
- The Canes finished with 35 shots on goal compared to 37 for New York. The team made up for a lot during that crucial third period when they outshot the visitors, 14-6. Tuomo Ruutu led the way tonight with five shots on goal and had four more that were blocked.
- The Islanders looked very good for much of this game. Their top two lines are excellent at moving to open parts of the ice for shots. But Cam Ward was usually one step ahead of them on this night.
- Ward finished with 35 saves on 37 shots for a .946 save percentage. Not sure where this team would be without him, and not sure we want to know. He still leads the league in shots faced and saves.
- The team had 27 hits led by Bryan Allen and Cole with five each. Ruutu and Pat Dwyer chipped in four each.
- Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison each blocked three shots. The Canes had a total of 17.
- It was not a great night in the faceoff circle. Eric Staal led the way at 43%. The team finished at 41%.
- Carolina went 0-2 on the powerplay, but Maurice was happier with the way it looked tonight. The penalty kill was back to looking good. They stopped all four NY chances and have not allowed goals in 39 of the last 44 opportunities.
- The Canes are off until Tuesday night when Ottawa comes to town. Buffalo will play their next two games at home, first against Atlanta on Saturday night, then Nashville on Sunday.
Post game interviews: