The third period was the charm last night for the Hurricanes as they beat the Lightning 4-3 in an exciting game at the RBC. After falling behind 3-1 and playing one of their worst periods of the year in the second, (3 shots on goal), they came out of the locker room and opened up a can of "whoop-ass" on the Lightning in the decisive third, scoring three goals in the opening 9 minutes of the period.
Erik Cole returned to the lineup and started right off with 2 hits on his very first shift. I guess he was going to prove to himself and to everyone else that he was feeling better. Erik provided a lot of energy and the line of Eric Staal, Cory Stillman, and Cole looked very good most of the night. Speaking of that line, they opened the scoring on a hard working play that Cole started by keeping the puck in the zone. He got the puck to Stillman behind the net who immediately put it on net. Staal was right there to stuff in the loose change. Later in the period, Paul Ranger tied the score for Tampa on a seeing eye shot from the blue line. The period ended 1-1 and was a pretty even period with both teams looking good at times.
The second period started out well as the Canes drew two penalties, but they failed to capitalize. The period went downhill quickly after that as the Lightning scored on a beautiful play with tic-tac-toe passing from Vincent Lecavalier, to Martin St. Louis, to Vaclav Prospal. 2-1, Lightning. Shortly after that, Lecavalier jumped on a loose puck at center ice and took it to the net with a step or two on Bret Hedican. To Hedi's credit, he did manage to get a stick and arm on number 4, but Lecavalier made one of the most beautiful goals you will see as he still managed to lift a back handed shot over Ward's shoulder. 3-1, Lightning. Lecavalier really did put on a show in that period as he used a toe drag move to deke a defenseman right out of his jock strap on yet another play which fortunately didn't materialize in a goal. It's amazing what he can do with the puck.
Things were a little tense at this point as many Caniacs were probably thinking that maybe the Lightning had Carolina's number again tonight. But the Canes had other ideas and pretty much dominated the third period from beginning to end. Ray Whitney opened the scoring on a nice shot from the slot on a pass from Matt Cullen. Chad LaRose should get some credit though for creating a turnover on the play with a nice forecheck. 3-2, Lightning. The near sell-out crowd started to get juiced up now and created a buzz that (according to Eric Staal), the players noticed. Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams finally scratched the scoresheet as Brindy found Willie with a pass and Justin put it past Holmqvist with a nice wrister. 3-3, Canes! The crowd really got loud at this point, I think as loud as they have been in a long time.
To their credit, the Canes were able to keep the pressure on the Boltz and also kept the puck in the Lightning zone for prolonged periods of time. Finally, Glen Wesley was able to solve Holmqvist again, this time for the game winner. Eric Staal should get an assist on that tally as he had a perfect screen on the goalie as Glen shot the puck. 4-3, Canes. It was Wesley's first goal of the year. His last goal, scored last year was also a game winner! Each of the top 3 lines were able to generate chances and points. The 4rth line looked pretty good as well though, even though they didn't grace the scoresheet. The lines were as follows: Staal, Stillman, Cole - Brind'Amour, Williams, Ladd - Cullen, Whitney, LaRose - Letowski, Adams, and Hamilton. I don't think that there is any reason to break them up for now.
Some hap-hazard observations...
- I don't think that Wardo was on top of his game tonight. I'm sure he'd like to have that Ranger goal back and it seemed like he was fighting the puck a bit, even on some of his stops. He did have a nice 3rd period though.
- Justin Williams shaved his head. I guess after his 4 penalties the other night, he was attempting a new start. To his credit, I didn't see him complain once. He let his play do his talking tonight.
- Cole, Stillman, and Staal were the 3 stars. No room for Wesley, who got the game winner? I agree with whomever called The Buzz and said that, the "old man" should have gotten a star.
- Chad LaRose was all over the ice again tonight, but still chirping a bit. He does get under the other team's skin, and that's not all bad. I'm waiting for the gloves to come off one of these nights.
- Eric Staal scored his 100th goal for the franchise tonight. He did it in just 268 games, the 6th fastest ever in franchise history. He bested Ron Francis who put in his 100 in 277 games.
- Ryan Bayda was sent back to Albany earlier during the day, and had 2 goals for the River Rats! Good for him!
Carolina flew to Washington after this game to take on the Capitals, Saturday night. The Caps just fired Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving day and are now playing for ex-Hershey coach, Bruce Boudreau. I'll have a pre-game posting sometime around noon with more info about that game.