So far, so good for the Carolina Hurricanes minus star goalie Cam Ward. The Hurricanes have won three of four since their starting goaltender went down with a knee injury, the latest coming in a 26-save shutout victory Tuesday by Justin Peters over the Capitals. Carolina now has 31 points and a three-point lead (with a game in hand) over Winnipeg in the Southeast Division. Washington, who will come to Raleigh Thursday for a rematch, slid to 10 points behind the Canes as the shortened season’s second half got underway for both teams. Here's a closer look at Tuesday's 4-0 win.
1. Joe Corvo set the tone with an impressive first period. He not only scored a unique off-the-helmet bank shot off Braden Holtby for the game’s first goal, but he also had the hit of the night in toppling Mike Ribiero later in the first period. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: a confident Corvo is a great Corvo. Last night, he was both.
2. The emergence of the third line continues to be a huge story for the Canes. Tuesday, it Riley Nash got his first career two-goal game, and he was a Patrick Dwyer pass away from perhaps getting a hat trick on an empty net. Nash’s play — which seems to be good regardless of who lines up on his flanks — seems to have ended any chatter of Carolina’s need for a third line center at the deadline.
3. How's this for commitment at both ends of the ice: the top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty finished the night with just two points, but combined for nine of Carolina’s 14 blocked shots (three apiece). A Hurricanes forward has only registered three or more blocks (and by my research the "or more" happened just once, by Drayson Bowman) a handful of times this season, so to see all three forwards on the first line get that many shows a three-zone effort. To put it in perspective, the league's top shot-blocking forwards average around 1.5 per night.
Number To Know
0 — Shots of goal for Alexander Ovechkin this season against Carolina. Ovechkin has yet to get a puck on net in two games against the Hurricanes, and has had at least two shots on goal in every game this season. Ovechkin did not go without a shot during all of last year’s regular season and has just two other games since the calendar flipped to 2010 when he registered zero SOG.
Justin Peters — Peters has always had the potential to be an NHLer. He possesses the ideal size, athleticism and attitude that teams look for when evaluating young goaltenders. But the difference between being an AHL goalie — even an excellent one — and sticking with the big boys is rebound control. In the past, Peters has struggled some to hold on to shots or direct them out of harm’s way. Tuesday night was an illustration of the improvements he's made in this pivotal facet of netminding. Peters not only made all the stops, but he didn't allow many second opportunities. With Dan Ellis playing so well as Carolina's backup prior to Cam Ward’s injury, Peters — on a one-way deal next season — needs to show he is capable of handling those duties. Three games in, he has done just that.
Drayson Bowman — Bowman actually had a good night, registering an assist and finishing plus-2 on the third line, but his decision to fight noted AHL pugilist Steve Oleksy goes down as a bad decision. For one, the Hurricanes had nothing to gain from the fight since they were up 3-0 in the third period. Secondly, Bowman could have been hurt. I understand trying to get noticed and justifying one’s place in the lienup, but anyone can fight a losing battle. Bowman had done enough with his skates and stick during the game — there was no reason to get his fists involved.