After a slow start, (okay, would you believe a very slow start), the Carolina Hurricanes held on, then revved themselves up to beat the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-3. Atlanta's Mark Recchi scored just 32 seconds into the contest and it was like deja vu, all over again for Caniacs. Welcome to your new team, Michael Leighton! Todd White scored later in the period to make the score 2-0, and the assumed rout was on.
Conventional wisdom would indicate that the Canes were in big trouble, since they had struggled during 2nd periods in several games this year, but such was not the case last night. Ray Whitney opened the scoring for Carolina just 27 seconds into the 2nd. The boys started skating harder and created more chances. They also forced Atlanta into taking too many penalties.
During the next Carolina powerplay, Pascal Dupuis scored a shortie making the score 3-1. But Eric Staal had a Jeff Hamilton shot bounce in off his leg during the same powerplay, to inch the Canes closer. (By the way, congrats to Hamilton on the birth of his baby boy, earlier in the day. Jeff racked up some frequent flyer miles and lost some shut eye, but who needs sleep when you're in the NHL and riding high on adrenaline after the birth of a son?)
Later in the period, Casey Borer scored on a nasty wrist shot during another powerplay. That was Borer's first career NHL goal, and hopefully it's just the first of many more to come! Casey played another very steady game and was rewarded with 19 minutes of ice time. Can the Canes keep this guy? The 2nd period ended 3-3.
I thought that the Hurricanes carried the play in the 3rd period, outshooting the Thrashers 14-7. With about 7 minutes left in the game, Eric Staal was hit in the face with a high stick and it drew some blood. The Canes were awarded a 4 minute powerplay. Atlanta wasn't finished making mistakes though, as Bobby Holik lifted a puck into the crowd just a couple of minutes later for yet another penalty. The blunder gave Carolina about a minute and a half of a 5 on 3 advantage.
The Hurricanes needed almost every second of it as they passed and passed, looking for an open chance. Finally, Staal flicked a pass to Ray Whitney who sliced a cross-ice pass to an open Cory Stillman who buried the puck into the partially open net. 4-3 Carolina, and that's the way it ended up.
After the very slow start, the Canes picked up their intensity and played a very gutsy game. Michael Leighton wasn't great in goal, but he was pretty steady after the first period. The defense played better and limited Ilya Kovalchuk from his time and space for most of the game, as they held the superstar without a goal.
The boys from Albany all accounted for themselves well, and were rewarded with decent ice time. The players with the lowest amount of time on the ice were Craig Adams and Keith Aucoin with just under 10 minutes each. I thought that Eric Staal asserted himself very well, (after starting the game with a -2). He should have been one of the stars of the game with his 3 points and decent effort all night.
The win was huge for the franchise as they put some much needed distance (5 points), between themselves and the rest of the contenders in the division. Next up for the boys is St. Louis as there will be no rest for the weary. There is a slight chance that Andrew Ladd will crack the lineup tonight, but don't hold your breath. He did travel with the team though. Game time is at 8:30 local and it's on FSN. Happy Saturday!