We're live as the Canes seek their first win of the season against Montreal, and a chance to move closer to eighth-place Buffalo...
2:00 1st: Last night in Washington we saw the Canes come out with fire in their eyes early in the third, after the non-call on the high stick that cut Eric Staal motivated the Canes for the last part of the game. It looks like they've channeled that energy tonight too. They're swarming all around Carey Price, and Staal nearly stuffed a wraparound home just a couple of minutes in.
8:00 1st: Price is known to come out of his net to challenge the shooter, and it looks like the Canes are trying to exploit that tendency by really swarming in front of the net. They aren't really getting to the real dirty area at the top of the crease, but with Price coming so far out they don't need to. There's a ton of traffic, so any shot from the point has a chance of fooling Price and making it through.
11:01 1st: Canes lead 1-0; Skinner 28 (unassisted) Remember what I said about Price challenging the shooter? Jeff Skinner took the challenge. Point to the rookie. Tuomo Ruutu didn't get an assist, but he created a turnover with a big hit along the near side boards, then Skinner skated in from the top of the circle and beat Price cleanly through the five-hole to put the Canes up by one.
15:06 1st: Canes up 2-0; Skinner 29 (Ruutu) This time, Ruutu does get an assist for a behind-the-back pass to a wide open Skinner in the near circle. Lars Eller totally lost his man, and when Ryan White went down to block a potential pass, it gave Skinner all day to roof a backhand high over Price's glove to give the rookie a 2-0 lead on his 29th of the year.
End 1st: No question Skinner hit a wall about a month and a half ago, but all the credit in the world to him for battling through it and, as a result, he has suddenly reverted to his January form - and just in time for the Canes. Shots in the first period were 17-15 Habs, so it looks like Cam Ward is in for another busy night.
:45 2nd: Not content to let the Skinner-Ruutu combination have all the fun, Erik Cole burst through the defense and surprised Price with a point-blank wrister. Cole was too deep to place the shot in the right place, but a few feet farther back and we'd be looking at a three-goal lead.
5:23 2nd: Habs pull to within one; Cammalleri 17 (Wisniewski, Plekanec) (pp) The Habs' puck movement on their power play is a thing of beauty, and it burned the Canes with Brandon S utter sitting in the box. Michael Cammalleri got behind the Canes' defense and waited out Ward, finally drawing the goalie down and roofing a backhand to make it a one-goal game
6:10 2nd: Canes back up two; McBain 6 (Cole, Stillman) And less than a minute later, Jamie McBain restores a two-goal lead on a goal Price would like to have back. With the Canes changing lines, McBain fired a what-the-heck shot at Price, a high shot from thirty feet with nothing in between. Yeah, it was high, but Price has to stop that shot - but the Canes sure aren't complaining.
9:02 2nd: Canes now up three; Pitkanen 8 (Ruutu, Skinner) I get the feeling this will be one of the periods where all I write about are goals. Some good work down low by the Canes' hottest line, including loud cheers anytime Skinner touched the puck in the offensive zone, ended up with a rebound kicked out to Joni Pitkanen at the blue line. He let loose a 50-foot slapper that was partially screened by Ruutu and beat Price high glove. Jacques Martin called his timeout but left Price in, although if the Canes score again there's almost no doubt Price's night will be over.
14:45 2nd: Twice tonight, Eric Staal has prevented a goal, first on a great pokecheck of Mathieu Darche after Darche faked Ward down to the ice in the first period, then a quick sweep of a rebound from a Brian Gionta shot with Benoit Pouliot ready and waiting to pounce. With other guys taking up the goal-scoring duties, Staal is still showing his value to the Canes in his own end of the ice.
End 2nd: After the Habs killed a David Descharnais hooking penalty, they took a ton of pressure to the Canes and the home team was darned lucky to make it to the intermission still holding a three-goal lead. We'll see if that momentum carries over, but for now the Habs have already fired 32 shots on Ward. Looking like a pretty sure bet that we'll see another 40-shot against performance tonight.
1:53 3rd: Well, you don't see that every day. Tuomo Ruutu checked Hal Gill into the stanchion right where the Canes come out of the locker room, shattering a piece of glass that separates the crowd from the Canes' bench. It's the first time I can remember that happening in this building in many years, maybe back to the pre-lockout days. Obviously, it took a while for everything to get cleaned up and it gave the building a rather surreal air, as the ice crew worked to clean up the glass and the players skated around aimlessly just trying to stay fresh.
8:28 3rd: Just like the Habs when they killed off a late penalty in the 2nd, the Canes took all sorts of momentum from a big kill of an Eric Staal hooking penalty, and the Canes marched down the ice and peppered Auld with all sorts of shots. Jeff Skinner nearly scored his third, and you'd be hard-pressed to not hear about it - the crowd went wild every time he touched the puck.
9:01 3rd: Habs back to within two; Subban 12 (Wisniewski, Plekanec) (pp) The Habs' power play strikes again, and yet again Eric Staal was in the box as P.K. Subban fired a shot from the blue line that had eyes and found its way through traffic and past Ward high to the glove side. Montreal is 2 for 3 on the power play, so the Canes badly need to stay out of the box the rest of the way.
13:52 3rd: Fortunate bounce for the Canes, as Ward kicks out a rebound that goes directly between Gionta and Scott Gomez at the side of the net. Neither one could get a stick on it, and if they had it would be a one-goal game. The net was wide open on the near side.
15:24 3rd: Canes back up three; McBain 7 (Bowman) It stinks for Drayson Bowman that his first point was on a 3-on-1 as the decoy for Jamie McBain, but I'm sure he won't mind. McBain looked at Bowman all day, then fired through Auld's five-hole and put the Canes back up by three.
17:47 3rd: Canes up 6-2; Stillman 11 (Corvo, Staal) (pp) For the first time in...um...five days, the Canes have scored two power play goals in a game. Before that, though, it was February 8 when they last scored twice. Stillman waited out Alex Auld, much the same as Cammalleri did to Ward earlier, and made it a four goal game with a quick wrister that surprised Auld.
With the Sabres' win over the Rangers, the Canes now sit three points back of both Buffalo and New York, and amazingly are only five points back of Montreal with a game in hand. Everything right up to 6th is in play, and you have to think that the winner of Sunday's game against Buffalo will claim one of those spots. It's about to get very interesting, but first the Canes need to take care of business on Saturday in Long Island. That's looming as a trap game, and the Canes can't fall for the trap.
We'll be back with another live blog on Sunday afternoon when the Sabres come to town.