The Florida Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, 5-4 narrowing Carolina's division lead to a mere 3 points. After the Panthers took a 1-0 lead off of a fluky goal where a shot was redirected in the net by Radek Dvorak's skate, the Canes came roaring back for 3 straight goals. A Scott Walker shot bounced in off of Andrew Ladd's leg, giving Andrew his 2nd of the year. Erik Cole scored a pretty goal from a pass by Ray Whitney, and Cory Stillman scored another beautiful goal on a Rod Brind'Amour pass from behind the Panther's net. The Hurricanes went into the dressing room after the 1st period with a comfortable 3-1 lead. I think that the team had yet to lose a game all season when leading after the 1st period.
The 2nd period didn't start out well for Carolina though as "Canekiller" Olli Jokinen got his team rolling with a weak backhanded softie which somehow found it's way between John Grahame's legs. Later in the period, Jozef Stumpel scored a pretty goal on a nice feed by Jokinen. The Canes were back on their heels for some of the period, although they did generate some good opportunities as well as 13 shots on goal. The main difference in the game seemed to be that Tomas Vokoun got stronger and more confident as the game went on, while John Grahame seemed to be less sure of himself. At the end of the 2nd period it was anyone's game at 3-3.
Again, Florida opened the scoring in the 3rd period on a shot by Stephen Weiss. But, Ray Whitney tied it up just 29 seconds later on a splendid pass from Erik Cole. The Hurricanes would eventually wear down though and couldn't generate many more opportunities for themselves. They finished the 3rd period with just 5 shots on goal. The Panthers on the other hand were more aggressive and eventually Brett McLean scored the game winner on another fluke goal which went in off of Tim Gleason's skate. Panthers 5, Canes 4. Gleason had a horrible game statistically, and finished with a team worst -3.
The night was a bad night for another reason as yet another Hurricane had to be helped from the Florida ice. (This is the same place where Erik Cole got hurt earlier in the year. He had to be carried from the rink on a stretcher when he went down). Late in the 1st period, Justin Williams was obviously interfered with and was hauled down near the front of the Florida net. A Panther crashed on top of him and appeared to land on Justin's left knee. The early prognosis is not good, but time will tell how serious the damage is and how long Justin will be out.
No penalty was called on the play, nor was there a penalty called when Stephen Weiss inadvertently high sticked Eric Staal in the 1st period which sent Eric to the bench with a bloody lip. The refs basically swallowed their whistles for the night and didn't make a single call the entire 3rd period. I will admit that the Hurricanes were guilty of a few uncalled hooks themselves, but the lack of calls definitely was a help to the Panthers and a detriment to the tired Carolina team. The Hurricanes were already playing with a forward out and then had to finish the game with just 10 forwards after Williams was carried off. Halfway through the 3rd period, they obviously had run out of gas. All in all I thought they played a good game though, especially considering that they played with 10 forwards and at least 2 of them were recovering from the flu.
The John Grahame "lovefest" has probably run it's course for now and I am sure that Cam Ward will be back in the net for the Canes on Saturday night. If Justin Williams can't play, Carolina will definitely need to call up someone from Albany, or maybe even 2 players depending upon the status of Chad LaRose. The question is, who will they call? We'll take a look at that a bit later today. TGIF!
The Rolling Stones