The Atlanta Thrashers beat the Carolina Hurricanes last night in OT, 5-4. The Hurricanes played better than they have the past couple of games, but they need to be better yet. Remember the Russian dude that this blog said they better keep an eye out for? Ilya Kovalchuk had a 4 point night. At one point he weaved around the entire Hurricanes defense like they were pylons, then roofed a perfect shot past Cam Ward.
"Wardo" had an atrocious night statistic wise, allowing 5 goals on just 14 Thrasher shots. Most of the goals were tough ones, but still he simply has to do better than that. The defense could be given credit for limiting the shots to such a low total, but they still had crucial turnovers at times, the most critical by Dennis Seidenberg who was stripped from the puck by Mark Recchi late in the 3rd period. Recchi fed it to Kovalchuk, who hit Bobby Holik in front of the net for Atlanta's 4rth goal. The "reckin ball" had another good game with a goal and an assist. Would he look good in red right now?
Rookie Casey Borer looked great in his debut for the home team. He played well enough to earn some playing time in the OT period. Hopefully we will see more of him in the future. Here's a quick recap for those of you who missed the game...
The Thrashers jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a soft goal by Slava Kozlov just 3 minutes into the game. Ray Whitney tied it up, 45 seconds after that on what looked to be a re-direction from a Tim Gleason pass. During the only penalty kill in regulation for the Canes, Kovalchuk did his "Russian dance" through the Hurricanes zone and made the score 2-1 on a highlight reel type goal. No one from Carolina was even able get a stick on him during the play.
During the 2nd period, the teams went back and forth with little consequence. Late in the period, Todd White won a faceoff cleanly in the Carolina zone, (against Rod Brind'Amour) and Kovalchuk rifled a shot wide. Mark Recchi anticipated the rebound and shoveled the puck inside the post before Cam Ward could recover. 3-1 Atlanta. (Recchi reacted faster than Ward? Weird!)
A few minutes into the 3rd period, the Canes came alive in a big way. I don't remember them buzzing like that in quite awhile. Eric Staal especially took over. I thought that Staal's line (with Whitney and Cole), had a very good game most of the time. They were drawing penalties and finally on the 6th powerplay of the night, Staal poked in a rebound to make the score 3-2. The Canes were peppering Johan Hedberg with shots at this point, and were keeping the Thrashers hemmed in their own zone for long periods of time.
Just about a minute later, Andrew Ladd took a nice feed from Scott Walker to tie the game up at 3-3. I thought that Ladd was playing like a man possessed. The next goal was scored by Holik, when Recchi took the puck away from Seidenberg. 4-3, Atlanta. The Canes did not give up though and tied the score on a softie by Erik Cole. Hedberg seemed to have the puck for a moment, but it skipped out of his glove and over the goal line making the score, 4-4. Believe it or not, that was Erik Cole's first goal of the season scored at the RBC.
The OT was an exciting one and both teams had good chances. Scott Walker had a free and clear breakaway but couldn't get the puck past Hedberg, and that turned out to be the best chance for Carolina. With about a minute left, Glen Wesley was trying to keep the puck in the zone and it jumped his stick right to Ilya Kovalchuk. It appeared that Glen reached out to slow the Russian sniper down because it would have resulted in a breakaway. Kovalchuk hit the ice and a penalty was called.
The Canes argued long and hard about the call, to no avail. In my opinion even if it was a bad call, the Hurricanes already had a 7-1 advantage in powerplays. It's hard to expect much more than that. The Thrashers scored on that ensuing powerplay as Kovalchuk found Marian Hossa wide open at the side of the net for the game-winner. The Hurricanes had 2 penalty kill situations for the whole game, and failed to kill either of them.
Some observations from Bubba's Blogger's Box....
Ilya Kovalchuk is really looking more like a complete player to me now. He is making beautiful passes, instead of just shooting all the time like in the past. If Alexander Ovechkin ever learns or decides to pass like that, watch out.
The good news for the Canes is that they looked more intense and more into the game in the 3rd period than I have seen them in quite awhile. They didn't give up, even though they were down 2 goals well into the final period. They were able to hold Atlanta to a game total of 14 shots, an amazingly low number. They were laying on more hits, and the forecheck looked better at times.
The bad news is that they still need to be more consistent and put in more effort throughout the whole game, not just in the 3rd period when they get desperate. They need better goaltending and need to stop allowing 4 to 5 goals each game. Quite frankly, they need to be able to kill a penalty.
Next up, the Hurricanes go to Atlanta for a Friday night game and the second half of this "home and home" series. They will still have this game fresh on their minds and should be gunning for revenge.