Tuesday's Top Ten: Games Last Season

Every Tuesday from now until the beginning of the regular season I'll do my best David Letterman impression and put together a unique top ten list about our beloved Canes. Last week I listed the Top Ten Moments in Josef Vasicek's Carolina Hurricanes career, following his tragic passing. This week I will attempt to take you readers on a journey all the way back to... well, last season.

The 2010-11 season definitely had it's ups and downs. There were the high points of Jeff Skinner's success, the All-Star game and trip to Finland; there were also the low moments (like anyone needs to be reminded) of the last game of the season or lackluster efforts midseason. However, there were certainly those few games that stuck out last year. Until next season starts up (so excited it's already preseason hockey time!) all of the recent live hockey that is engrained in our minds is from the 2010-11 campaign.

After the jump, I will begin to decipher the top ten games from last season. As a bonus, I've made it to where clicking on the title of the game directs you to the video highlights of each game. There are so many good candidates that I welcome all to debate which games were left off the list via the comments section below or on Twitter (@LeePhillips18).

Enjoy!

 

10. November 9, 2010: 7-1 Win vs. Edmonton Oilers

 

The result of this game was never in doubt. Having been on the other side of some of these contests, it was fun for Canes' fans to see just how powerful their team could be when they were firing on all cylinders. Patrick Dwyer scored less than a minute into the game, which was then followed by Erik Cole, Joe Corvo and Chad LaRose to build a 4-0 first period lead. The assault continued in the second period after Corvo scored his second of the game on the power play, building the lead to 5-0. Sergei Samsonov and Dustin Penner exchanged goals to make it 6-1 and Jeff Skinner finished off the 2006 Runner-Up Oilers with a beautiful tip in front of Edmonton netminder Devin Dubnyk to complete the game.

 

9. January 20, 2011: 4-1 Win vs. New York Rangers

 

After two awful losses to the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes needed a quick pick-me-up desperately. The Canes had just dropped a 7-0 thumper and a 3-2 heartbreaker to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions and were probably not feeling too great about themselves. The New York Rangers were the next opponent and they presented a whole new challenge to the Hurricanes, a playoff bubble team. The Rangers were one of the handful of teams that were scratching at the playoffs' last few seeds and the Hurricanes were a team standing in their way. The only way to jump teams easily was to beat them yourself, and that's just what the Hurricanes did.

The Canes built a 3-0 lead midway through the third period on goals by Chad LaRose, Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter. Jokinen had been producing lately, but Sutter and LaRose both broke long dry spells with the tallies. Brandon Prust got the Rangers on the board, spoiling the shutout bid for Cam Ward in the process. Skinner tallied the last goal about four minutes later to put the Canes in the drivers seat in the game and get a huge win with just a few games remaining until the All-Star break.

 

8. March 22, 2011: 4-3 Win vs. Ottawa Senators

 

You always want to be at your best at all points during the season. However, sometimes teams come across games against competition that has been long eliminated from the playoffs and has had a rough go of it this season. That was the case during this game between the Senators and the Hurricanes. The Canes were beating good teams, trying to stay in the playoff chase. The Senators had been losing all season and the trend showed no signs of stopping. On paper this game was a mismatch - an easy "W" for the Canes. However, sometimes those are the toughest games to stay mentally focused for.

The Senators quickly grabbed a 2-0 lead and the Canes looked sloppy in all three zones. Bad rebounds and the lack of defensive coverage bit Ward and the Canes, who looked to be in store for a rough night. However, the Canes could still turn the game around and win; it was still early. They just needed to wake up, some sort of energy shot or lucky bounce. They soon found both in the form of a fluttering goal by Tuomo Ruutu and a quick wrister by "Mr. 5 Hour Energy" himself, Chad LaRose. The game was tied and the fans were wild in the RBC Center. 

The Canes ran with the energy, scoring twice more by LaRose himself and Cory Stillman before hanging on for a 4-3 win. On paper, it was a mismatched game that the Hurricanes found a way to win, but for the people that witnessed it it was so much more. 

 

7. December 11, 2010: 2-1 Shootout Win vs. St. Louis Blues

 

This contest pitted the Canes against an unfamiliar foe in the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were struggling to keep pace in a tight Western Conference and the Canes, historically, had not fared well against the West. The match-up did present a chance to see two of the game's best goalies battle, Cam Ward and playoff hero from a year ago Jaroslav Halak. The game remained a scoreless tie until early in the third period, when Brandon Sutter pocketed the game's first goal for a 1-0 lead. With the way the goalies had been playing, no one would have been surprised if that one goal stood up to be the winner. However, Alex Peterangelo and the Blues would find a way to sneak a puck past Ward to tie to score, 1-1. As the third period ended and overtime began, images of the previous game sept into the minds of some. The Canes had just played the Dallas Stars to a 1-1 deadlock into the shootout the previous day. The Hurricanes couldn't muster any goals in the breakaway contest and lost the game 2-1. Not scoring in the shootout has plagued the team ever since 2005-06, a year in which they excelled. 

Overtime, of course, ended and the shootout lineups were set to go. As the last portion of the game drew on, the goalies still reigned supreme. Matt D'Agostini and Brandon Sutter were both denied in the first frame. Brad Boyes was stopped by Ward and rookie Jeff Skinner missed the net. When Alexander Steen missed for the Blues, it presented an opportunity to win the game, with the puck on the stick of Jussi Jokinen. Three years ago, this would have been an automatic win, however, Jokinen had been struggling of late, missing his first five attempts of the season. This time was the exception, however, as Jussi netted the game-winner, giving the Canes a big win and a confidence boost going forward.

6. January 11, 2011: 6-5 Shootout Win vs. Calgary Flames

 

Normally a game in which the Hurricanes blow a 5-2 lead would not make a top-ten list for the right reasons. However, it will be the frantic finish and the skill of Skinner that will always make this game memorable. 

As previously mentioned, the Canes got off to a good start. After the first period, they had simply kept pace with the Flames. The score was tied 2-2 and the chances seemed fairly even. Then, after 15 minutes of second-period play, the Canes found themselves up 5-2 and coasting toward a win. Even with Calgary's Niklas Hagman scoring to cut the lead to 5-3 before the break, a Carolina victory seemed inevitable.

Then less than halfway into the third, Calgary had mounted their comeback. Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque had both scored to tie the score 5-5 and all of a sudden nothing was safe. Calgary netminder Mikka Kiprusoff had already been pulled and Cam Ward was not looking too steady himself. Despite the shaky goaltending, the game remained tied until a shootout. 

After two rounds of the shootout, the Canes held the lead 1-0 on a dazzling goal by Skinner. If Tuomo Ruutu could score, the Canes would win. He was, of course, stopped by backup Henrik Karlsson, who had performed wonderfully in his relief effort. Hagman, who started the rally, was then given the green light. He went and Cam Ward stood tall, denying the Flames a chance to come back completely. 

 

5. January 9, 2011: 4-3 Overtime Win vs. Atlanta Thrashers

 

I know what you're thinking, which overtime win versus the Atlanta Thrashers was this one again. Well, it's the one that Erik Cole scored to win. Wait, that doesn't help either I guess...

Well, this game, for those who do remember, was epic. The Thrashers were, at the time, contenders in the playoff chase. The Hurricanes needed to win, not only to gain points in the standings, but also to deny the Thrashers points. As the game went along, the Hurricanes began to build themselves an impressive lead. The desperate Thrashers team fell down 4-1... wait never mind, the referee called Erik Cole for interference to negate the fourth goal. The crowd didn't like it at all as Carolina now had to kill off a penalty instead of getting a comfortable lead. The Thrashers, poetically scored on the ensuing power play, adding fuel to the fans' already strong fire. Then Bryan Little scored past Justin Peters to tie the score midway through the third period, turning what was once a comfortable game into a nail-bitter.

The time clicked off the clock signaling the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime. The Canes only meeting against Atlanta so far had been decided in a shootout with Carolina coming out on top, but this game didn't need to go as far. Cole, atoning for his earlier penalty, was a man possessed in overtime. He broke in alone on Ondrej Pavelec after Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien turned over the puck and was promptly denied. However, the Canes stuck with the play and Cole found the puck back on his stick in front of the net. His shot barely snuck by Pavelec and dribbled into the net, giving the Hurricanes the win they seemingly deserved.

 

4. March 3, 2011: 3-2 Overtime Win vs. Buffalo Sabres

 

So much was on the line for this game. The winner would be in control of their destiny in terms of making the playoffs and the loser would have to play spectacular hockey down the stretch and hope for help. The Sabres seemed to outplay the Hurricanes for much of the contest as they were playing a rejuvenated style of hockey after acquiring new center Brad Boyes and new owner, millionaire Terry Pegula. Pegula made it known that the purpose of the existance of the Sabres was to compete and win the Stanley Cup, no matter the financial cost. So Buffalo landed Boyes at the trade deadline and the team was sparked for a run to the finish.

The Sabres twice grabbed leads that were erased by fluky and awkward Carolina goals minutes later. The second period featured all of the scoring as Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose bumped in goals past a helpless Ryan Miller to erase 1-0 and 2-1 leads, respectively. The third period was tighter, as both teams refused to give an inch to the opposition. As the game drifted into overtime, the fans in the RBC Center held their breathe. Such an important game was left to sudden-death overtime and the Canes had been outplayed and outskated. If Buffalo won, then the Canes would be without the extra point and all the Caniacs in attendance would have to endure the wrath of the numerous Sabres fans sprinkled throughout the arena.

Overtime began. And just as quickly as it began, it ended. Jamie McBain, the rookie defenseman from the University of Wisconsin, fired a slapshot at Miller that somehow, almost humorously, found it's way between Miller's pads for the 3-2 win. Everyone then exhaled their sighs of relief.

 

3. March 18, 2011: 3-2 Overtime Win vs. New York Islanders

 

Another case of a game that the Hurricanes might have overlooked down the stretch. The Islanders had been a pretty bad team throughout the season and the Canes needed a win to keep pace in the playoff race. The Hurricanes had also defeated New York in their previous two encounters 7-1 and 4-2. 

However, this game proved to be different. The Canes grabbed the quick 1-0 lead on a goal by Jeff Skinner, adding to his resume for rookie of the year. Frans Nielson then scored 41 seconds later to even the game 1-1 and give notice that the Islanders were still around to play hockey. Michael Grabner, another rookie building an impressive resume for the Calder Trophy, scored early in the second period to give New York a 2-1 lead. 

The Canes found themselves scratching and clawing at the Islander defense and goaltender Al Montoya until the dying minutes. So many times Hurricanes fans had seen it; a desperate attempt to comeback after a slow start that just never happens. Their team was outplaying the Islanders and if the Canes lost, they would be two points behind the Sabres for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with Buffalo holding two games in hand. A loss would be deadly at this point. 

Then Erik Cole came to the rescue, as he had so many times before that season. He scored with under five minutes remaining to tie the game and give the Canes new life. In overtime, Skinner would dangle the puck into the Islander zone and dish it off to Joni Pitkanen. Pitkanen unleashed a bomb of a slap shot to give the Canes a huge win and air to breathe in the playoff picture.

 

2. April 6, 2011: 3-0 Win vs. Detroit Red Wings

 

The Canes final three games of the regular season were all must-wins after losing to the Sabres in overtime. This included a favorable matchup against the Atlanta Thrashers, an iffy game at home versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and an extremely tough challenge in the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings, as usual, were atop the Western Conference and among some pundits picks for a Stanley Cup contender. Goaltender Jimmy Howard was having a terrific season and their committee of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Daysuk, Niklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen were all playing up to potential. The Hurricanes did have one thing that the Red Wings did not though, Cam Ward.

This might have been the night that Ward surpassed "star" status and approached the "superstar" level. He stopped 42 Red Wing shots in leading the Canes to a 3-0 shutout win over the Wings. The team as a whole played one of the best and most complete games, not just of the season, but since their Stanley Cup year (which was also the last year that the Hurricanes had defeated the Red Wings). Ward starred, but players like Derek Joslin, who had the game's first goal, shone as well. Jeff Skinner put his talents on display by taking the rebound of his own shot and stuffing it past Howard on the wraparound. The goal, his 30th of the season, nearly caused FSN Broadcaster John Forslund to lose his voice. The scoring was fittingly capped off after a penalty kill.

Drayson Bowman was called for a double minor after he was quick with his stick up high by the referee. A Red Wing goal would have put Detroit right back into the game with plenty of time left. Instead the Hurricanes work together as a team to kill the penalty off. As Bowman rushed out of the box, he found himself racing toward Howard with Eric Staal and Erik Cole. Staal threaded a pass past Lidstrom and to Cole, who one-timed it into the net to cap off a 3-0 win.

 

1. February 18, 2011: 3-2 Win vs. Philadelphia Flyers

 

Rod Brind'amour night.

A night to remember all of the achievements the former Carolina captain attained during his time in the league. The Hurricanes, as well as the visiting Philadelphia Flyers all wore Rod Brind'amour jerseys during the warm-up skate to honor the longtime Cane and Flyer.

The biggest thing Brind'amour could have wanted for his special night though, would be a Hurricanes victory. Boy did the team ever deliver. The Canes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner, pumped the crowd up and giving everyone hope that this night would be remembered without a sour taste that a loss usually leaves.

The Flyers, on of the East's best teams, came back at the Canes in the second period. Blair Betts notched a shorthanded goal almost three minutes into the middle frame to put a cloud of doubt back into the outcome. The Hurricanes appeared to not be phased by the goal though. They played their style of game and seemed to be without panic. Fourteen minutes into the third period and the score still remained 2-1. Braydon Coburn soon found an opportunity and pounced on it, tying the score at two.

Certainly the Canes did not want to lose the game on Rod Brind'amour night, but they would really hate to lose it this way - letting a lead slip away.

A mere two minutes after Coburn tied the score, Erik Cole found himself breaking in on goal with Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen dished the puck off to Cole and Erik blasted it past Sergei Bobrovsky for a late 3-2 lead. The Canes, thankfully, held on to that lead, giving fans in attendance more to remember than Rod Brind'amour's speech or the rising of his number into the rafters.

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