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Blue Collar Man - Canes 4 Lightning 1

The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1 last night at the St Pete's Times Forum. I thought that the teams played pretty evenly in the first 2 periods, but the Hurricanes dominated the 3rd period and scored 3 goals, (2 of them empty netters in the final minute), to put away the game.

An admirable "blue collar" performance was put in by Andrew Ladd, who might have played his best game of the season last night. Andrew was hitting everything in sight, creating havoc in front of the net, and even scored while being tripped on a play that evolved simply because of his extra effort. That is the player the Canes thought that they were drafting as the 4rth overall pick back in 2004.

The game did not start off very auspiciously, as the Lightning scored on their very first shot on their very first shift, just 23 seconds into the contest. Martin St. Louis skated to an open area and fired a shot at Cam Ward which the goalie initially stopped. The rebound bounced into the air, hit defenseman Glen Wesley, then bounced into the net. Most Caniacs had to be thinking, "here we go again", but the Hurricanes defense tightened up and Cam Ward was as solid as a rock the rest of the game.

Andrew got the all important tying goal later in the first period when he passed to Matt Cullen from behind the net, then drifted to the front. Cullen fired a shot on goal which Tampa goalie Karri Ramo stopped, but Andrew fought his way through the goalie's poke check attempt and dove to get his stick on the rebound and pushed it into the net. That made the score 1-1. Rookie, Brandon Nolan earned his first NHL point on the play as he originally sent the puck deep to Ladd. The line of Cullen, Ladd, and Nolan looked good in the game, and Nolan had a very nice debut. Peter Laviolette replaced him with Trevor Letowski in the third period, and Nolan finished the game with the one assist, 2 shots on goal, and was plus 1, after having played about 8 minutes.

The second period had a few tense moments as Carolina had to kill off a prolonged 5 on 3 opportunity. The Canes were able to kill it though, as Cam Ward made several good saves throughout. Ward looked very comfortable in net. He didn't try to do too much and I don't remember him being out of position all night.

In the third period, Ray Whitney fired in a one-timer that finally beat rookie goalie, Karri Ramo, who looked very good for Tampa Bay all night long. He was the beneficiary of 3 shots that hit posts by the Canes though. Glen Wesley and Erik Cole missed on what appeared to be wide open nets. Wesley hit the crossbar and Cole hit the inside of the post.

In the last minute or so, the Bolts pulled Ramo for an extra attacker. The Canes were able to break the puck out to center ice where Scott Walker was skating pretty much unimpeded. He unselfishly passed it to Ray Whitney though who skated almost all the way to the net and lifted it in, making it 3-1.

Completely undaunted, Tampa coach John Tortorella called time out and pulled his goalie once again. The Lightning were not able to accomplish what they attempted though as the Canes carried the puck out of the zone again, and this time Ray Whitney found himself alone at center ice for an easy shot at the wide open net. This time, he took the unselfish role and passed up his hat-trick and passed the puck to Eric Staal who easily put it into the net. Final score, Canes 4, Lighting 1.

You really have to be impressed with the unselfishness on the team. Hats off to Ray Whitney and Scott Walker! The official three stars according to Yahoo were Ray Whitney, Cam Ward, and Martin St. Louis. I would have given a star to Andrew Ladd, who not only scored the game tying goal, but led the entire team with 8 hits.

Carolina is off now until December 26th when they play at Madison Square Garden for the second time this season. It will be an unusual road game for the team because due to the Christmas break, they will travel on the same day the game is played, not the night before. More about that later. Happy Sunday!

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