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Better Man

Regardless of how well or poorly Carolina played last night, the better team won. While both teams struggled at times, the Canes had the better chances and skated a better overall game. They also outhit the Panthers 50-33. After several near misses in the 1st period during which Carolina attempted 3 straight power plays and came away with nothing to show for their efforts, Nathan Horton scored on a nice shot over Cam Ward's shoulder to put the Panthers ahead 1-0. In my opinion the first period was pretty good. The Panthers could not keep up with the fast skating Canes and committed penalty after penalty. Some were called, some were not. In the 2nd period things slowed down a bit. The Panthers have never been a very exciting team to watch for me and for the most part, last night was no exception. The crowd was fairly quiet until Justin Williams tied the score on a 2 on 1 rush with Eric Staal on his side at about the 15 minute mark of the 2nd. The shot hit the post and went in, now giving Willie an 8 game scoring streak.Â

The 3rd period was almost all Canes as they started to dominate the game and at one point held the puck in the Florida zone for about two solid minutes and over a couple of shift changes. Early in the period during a 4 on 3 advantage, Eric Staal rifled a pass/shot toward the crease that went in off Brind'Amour making the score 2-1. Later in the period, Scott Walker took an intentional choppy pass from Letowski, as Trevor bounced the puck over and between two Panther defensemen. Scottie was able to settle the puck, break in the clear, and fire the shot past Auld. It was a beautiful play indeed! But then Nathan Horton found another chink in Cam Ward's armor and made the score 3-2 giving false hope to Panther fans. Finally, Cory Stillman was able to find the back of the open net on a back hand shot with someone draped all over him. Canes win 4-2!!

I haven't had a "Bubba's Star of the Game" lately because during this 5 game winning streak, the whole team has stepped it up and have played much better than they did during their west coast road trip.  Ray Whitney and Erik Cole both extended their scoring streaks to 5 games and Cory Stillman contributed like he has every game since returning from his shoulder surgery. Belanger had a very good game and has played well lately. He also had a break away that was a bit unusual. He attempted a slap shot instead of a customary finesse move, but maybe he was just trying to cross up the goalie with something different. I saw Thomas Vanek attempt that type of shot in a shoot out earlier this year which went in and won the game for Buffalo.  But to get back to my point, it's been difficult to pick an "unsung hero" lately since they all seem to be on the same page and are working together right now, more so than they have at any point in this season. Â

In yesterday's pre-game post I singled out Eric Staal to have a good game. He ended up with 2 assists and also seemed to be trying harder on defense. Great job Eric! I also said that due to unusual game day traveling, the home teams would have an advantage last night. If you were a betting man or woman, you could have cleaned up! The home teams won 10 of the 12 games played. Did the change of routine mess with the visitor's games at all, or was it just coincidence? You know what I think!

Tomorrow night the Canes put their 5 game winning streak on the line at Buffalo. It's the first time Stillman gets a chance to play against them this season. The Canes are playing well, feeling confident, and are looking forward to the match-up. It should be a great game, but more about that tomorrow. Go Canes!  Â

Pearl JamÂ