The New York Rangers bested the Carolina Hurricanes last night 4-2, in a game in which 2 Rangers could have earned themselves suspensions. About 8 minutes into the 2nd period, Colton Orr lined up Matt Cullen from a distance and leveled Carolina's unsuspecting center as he was knocked unconscious to the ice. The instant replays were horrific as you could see Matt's face take the full brunt of the fall to the ice. Orr was given an interference penalty along with a game misconduct.
Later on in the 3rd period, perennial goofball Sean Avery was trying to get something started with one of the Canes. Andrew Ladd finally answered the call, but was immediately restrained by the linesmen. That didn't stop Avery though as he repeatedly threw sucker punches at the restrained Ladd. Avery, who is well known for his cheapshots and questionable play, was given a 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Unfortunately for the Canes, Andrew was also given a 10 minute major and he never got to throw a single punch! Such is life in today's NHL.
Not surprisingly, the Rangers opened the game full of pop and had the jump on the Canes throughout the first period. But Cam Ward was on top of his game and the defense was doing whatever they could to stem the tide as well. The defense had 11 blocked shots in the that period alone! Add those blocks to the 13 stops that Ward made and compare those 24 total shots with the 5 that the Canes mustered. You can see how thoroughly the Rangers dominated. Nevertheless, the score was still 0-0 and it was anyone's game.
The Rangers were finally able to find the back of the net early in the 2nd period while on a 3 on 1 break. Jaromir Jagr got the goal. But the Canes answered just 2 minutes later with their very first short-handed goal of the year. Mike Commodore joined the rush and took a shot which Henrik Lundqvist stopped easily. Matt Cullen got the rebound though and sent a brilliant pass over to Scott Walker who was able to sink the puck in the open net. If Cullen wasn't a target before, he certainly was after that play as he was knocked to the ice less than 4 minutes after that goal.
The Hurricanes were awarded a 5 minute powerplay because of the interference call on Orr, but were unable to take advantage of it. Frankly, they looked dazed and confused after the ugly play, and I can't say that I blame them. After watching another valuable player, Justin Williams get taken out for the season just 2 games earlier, one must wonder just how fragile this team's psyche is right now.
To Carolina's credit, they were able to take advantage of a subsequent powerplay though as Eric Staal redirected a Dennis Seidenberg shot to make the score 2-1. The Canes skated off the 2nd period with that lead, but it was short-lived as Chris Drury scored at the 1 minute mark of the 3rd.
The rest of the period was all Rangers as the Canes made one mistake after another and every attempt to get anything going was futile. Drury, Gomez, and Jagr looked like the players that they are getting paid to be, and the rest of the Rangers were happy to do the dirty work. Dan Girardi and Jagr closed out the scoring which made the final score, Rangers 4, Hurricanes 2.
Carolina will be looking for more help from their role players now, with both Williams and Cullen out. Someone like Trevor Letowski comes to mind. But is Letowski up to the task? Mid way through the 3rd period, Trevor coughed up the puck all too easily to Scott Gomez behind the Canes net which led to the final goal for the Rangers. Gomez was able to find a wide open Jaromir Jagr for the goal which ended up breaking the Canes backs.
There is soon to be a lot of discussion as to whether or not the Hurricanes are tough enough. That is a question that this blog asked earlier in the year. The Rangers have a few players whose only role is to create havoc, or in some cases, take out a star player just like Orr did last night. Players like Colton Orr, (1 point), and Ryan Hollweg, (1 point) certainly aren't in the NHL for their scoring prowess. But those players, Sean Avery included, did their jobs for the Rangers in this game. They got their team fired up and helped the fans get into it as well.
Carolina's management has to be asking themselves what exactly are their role players contributing? Trevor Letowski isn't going to bring a physical element to his game. Craig Adams doesn't scare anyone in this league. Other than his early season work on the powerplay, Jeff Hamilton hasn't accomplished much. If these role players aren't going to contribute with points, they need to contribute in other ways. So far I haven't seen much.
Later today I'll be making an update and will be giving my opinion about the thuggery in the league. Good luck to Matt Cullen and hopefully he will have a fast recovery.