(previous game photo)
If New York Rangers coach Tom Renney was trying to send a message by sending Sean Avery out on the ice for the opening faceoff, Scott Walker wasn't impressed. Walker and Avery started to mix things up before the drop of the puck and received matching roughing penalties before any time had elapsed. Even though both troublemakers went to the box, that wasn't the end of the rough stuff. Both teams were just getting started.
With earlier injuries suffered by Matt Cullen and Andrew Ladd by the hands of the Rangers fresh on the Hurricanes minds, it seemed that they wanted to send a few messages themselves. The entire first period was a fight filled, penalty ridden mess. After getting out of the box, Walker boarded Scott Gomez on a play which probably warranted a penalty, but none was called. Perhaps Walker was just letting the Rangers know that if they intended to headhunt Carolina's better players like they did last game, it wasn't going to be tolerated this time around.
The rough stuff precipitated a huge scrum and Sean Avery ended up with an instigator penalty, Tim Gleason got a game misconduct for being the 3rd man in, and Walker and Avery each got fighting majors. Just a minute prior to that, Colton Orr beat on Wade Brookbank pretty badly, and WB needed to go to the dressingroom to get stitched up. To the scrapper's credit though, he came back and fought Orr again in the period, even with the freshly stitched face.
While it was exciting, the 1st period really was not a good one for the Canes. They allowed a powerplay goal one minute into the game. They totally blew a two minute 5 on 3 opportunity as they barely even got a shot on net. They looked horrible as they whiffed on shots, fanned on passes, and were sometimes out-hustled. The 2nd and 3rd periods were pretty much all Hurricanes though.
Some of the highlights...
Sergei Samsonov continues to earn his keep as he took a beautiful pass from Ray Whitney and lifted a pretty backhander over a sprawled Henrik Lundqvist to tie the score for the Canes in the 2nd period.
Just a bit later in the same period, Rod Brind'Amour and Samsonov had an odd man rush and the Captain used Sergei as a decoy as he faked a pass and beat Lundqvist himself for the eventual game winner. Mike Commodore created the play and was able to feed Brind'Amour the puck as the defenseman now has a 3 game point streak!
In the 3rd period, Chad LaRose made a beautiful pass to Trevor Letowski who had beaten his man and the much maligned 4rth liner was able to get the puck past Lundqvist which ended up to be the back-breaker for the Rangers. I admit, Letowski looked very good on the play. The Trevor Letowski fanclub can rejoice!
Cam Ward had 34 saves and earned 1st star honors, but to be honest had a bit of luck in a frantic couple of sequences in front of his net in the 2nd period. At one time, the netminder lost his stick and was down and out. Nic Wallin assumed the goalie's position and stopped one shot. I believe that Glen Wesley may have stopped another at a different point in the period. There was another time when the goalie had lost track of the puck and was turned sideways, but the New York forward hit the puck under his legpad while Cam was still searching for the puck. To his credit, he was as solid as a rock in the 3rd period though, especially during a Rangers flurry near the end of the game.
The Hurricanes defense deserves all the credit in the world. With Tim Gleason thrown out of the game early in the 1st period, the 5 veterans had to get the job done all on their own and they did a fine job. Maybe that week off gave them a much needed breath of fresh air? Special kudos goes to Bret Hedican, who even though he took a bad cross-checking penalty in the 2nd, played a very good and physical game overall and sent a couple of messages himself.
Scott Walker, Rod Brind'Amour, and Cam Ward were the 3 stars and deservedly so, but let's give the 4rth star to Hedican. Some Rangers fans might not appreciate the shot that he gave to Petr Prucha, but Bret can always say that his arms came up to "protect himself", the same reasoning that Colton Orr gave when he leveled Matt Cullen in New York with elbows up high as well.
This win along with the Washington Capitals loss in Montreal gives Carolina a 3 point lead in the division. The Caps still have 2 games in hand though and who knows which Hurricanes team fans will see on Thursday night against the Leafs. Still, this was a well-earned victory and hopefully something that the Hurricanes can build on. But they better work on their 5 on 3 powerplay!
The Rolling Stones