Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Devils

Captain Eric Staal had plenty to celebrate in New Jersey Tuesday. The Hurricanes knocked off the Devils, 4-2, and finished their six-game road trip with nine points. - Elsa

Carolina closed out it's season-long six-game road trip with a 4-2 win in New Jersey, moving the team to 7-4-1 and padding their Southeast Division lead to two points over Tampa Bay.

Jiri Tlusty scored twice for the second consecutive night and Jussi Jokinen finally notched his first tally of the season to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-2 victory in New Jersey, closing out their six-game road trip at an impressive 4-1-1. Here's a closer look at the Canes' win.

Three Observations

1. Who would have thought the best thing that could happen to the Carolina penalty kill was to give up a goal? Ilya Kovalchuk's rocket from the blue line found the back of the net at 15:59 of the first period, but was waved off and not verified until three minutes later, when a stoppage finally led to a review and confirmation that the puck had quickly bounced out of the net after beating Cam Ward. What Carolina got from it was a chance to kill off the power play, even though it all wound up not mattering on the scoreboard. From there the Hurricanes killed off the Devils’ other three power plays of the night, snapping a five-goals-allowed-in-six-tries run that had many wondering what was going on with the team's play with a man in the box. You can bet that coach Kirk Muller will utilize the three days off following Thursday's home game against Toronto to shore up the 28th-ranked penalty kill, but Tuesday they found a way to get it done.

2. It was great to see Jokinen finally get his first goal of the season, and he got some help and luck in doing so. Rather than getting a stoppage on the penalty kill, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur — arguably the best puck-handling netminder ever — attempted to clear the puck himself and instead turned it over to Joe Corvo. After resetting the power play, Corvo faked a shot and passed to the back door, where Jokinen one-timed the puck off Andy Green and it knuckled in the net for his first tally of the year.

3. This was arguably the best road trip in Hurricanes history, with the team coming away with nine of a possible 12 points to catapult themselves into first in the Southeast Division. While the team did struggle against Philadelphia — who handed them the regulation and overtime loss on the trip — Carolina found a way to compete each night without letting their opponents dictate the play. Run and gun with the Islanders? No problem. Trap-busting New Jersey? Done. Topping stingy Craig Anderson? Mission accomplished. Regardless of the opponent and their style, the Hurricanes managed to play their game at their pace. If the Canes can replicate their road play at home — where they will get the benefit of matching up with teams on their terms — they are in for a great season.

Number To Know

7:11 — More even-strength ice time Carolina’s fourth line had than the team’s third line. The trio of Tim Brent, Andreas Nodl and Tim Wallace played a combined 29:37 at 5-on-5 (an average of nearly 10 minutes each), whereas Jokinen, Drayson Bowman and Chad LaRose played just 22:26 (closer to 7:30 each, on average). The two lines played close to the same minutes Monday on Long Island (the third played, on average, a little more than a minute more), but there seemed to be a shift by Muller to give his grinders more minutes than his struggling third line.

Plus

Jay Harrison — No Kevin Westgarth, no problem. In every scrum, every corner, every battle in front of Ward, Harrison was there asserting himself and letting the Devils know the Hurricanes wouldn't be pushed around. Harrison played a team-high 16:58 at even strength for Carolina and logged another four-plus minutes on special teams. He also got an assist when Patrick Dwyer — who also deserves credit for his continued solid play — redirected Harrison’s point shot to give the Canes a 2-1 lead late in the second, but where his presence was felt most was in the trenches.

Minus

Joni Pitkanen — Not a minus for the player, but a minus for his injury. Pitkanen has struggled to stay healthy during his career, missing more than 140 games over the course of his nine-year career. Last season represented his biggest absence, when he played just 30 games. Now Pitkanen is hurt again — reports are he is day-to-day with a lower body injury — and he leaves a huge void on the Carolina blue line. Despite the emergence of Justin Faulk, Pitkanen still leads the team in ice time at 24:30 a night (24th in the NHL) and the defensive corps seemed to struggle to find balance without No. 25. Carolina can't afford to have him out for long.

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