The Carolina Hurricanes continued to stake their claim to first place in the Southeast Division with a convincing 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. While the Capitals started the game out with the most jump and took a 2-1 lead during the 1st period, the Hurricanes rallied for three goals in the 2nd period and added two more in the 3rd to take the win and pad their lead in the division.
The recently maligned Carolina powerplay looked alive and well on Saturday and accounted for 4 of the 6 tallies. Matt Cullen, who has been recovering from a vicious hit by Colton Orr of the Rangers on December 26th, looked no worse for wear during this game. He was skating the puck in the zone, setting up the offense, blasting shots away from the point, and was looking much like the player that he was at the beginning of the Hurricanes season.
Cullen opened the scoring for the Canes with a blast from the point on Carolina's very first powerplay of the game. After the team squandered a 5 on 3 advantage toward the end of the first period and beginning of the second, Cullen lit the lamp once again, this time by slipping in a rebound past Olaf Kolzig on yet another powerplay. Just 2 minutes later, Erik Cole slapped in another rebound during another powerplay. Later in the 2nd period, Eric Staal put in a loose puck from in close which turned out to be the game winner.
The Canes pretty much dominated the 3rd period. Andrew Ladd flicked in a very pretty goal on a rebound from a Tim Conboy shot. Finally, Joe Corvo scooped in a loose puck on another rebound on yet another powerplay.
It might seem like the Capitals were called for several penalties, and indeed they were. They were called for 6 minor penalties and one fighting major, but Carolina was also called for 4 minors along with the matching major for fighting. The main difference in the game though was that one team took advantage of their opportunities, and the other didn't.
The nature of the penalties was a little bit confusing. Alexander Ovechkin took Glen Wesley out of the game in the 1st period with a somewhat questionable high hit which was not called. At this time there is still no word about Wesley's condition. Also in the period, bad boy Donald Brashear boarded Trevor Letowski face first into the boards which drew blood and required stitches. Again there was no penalty called, but the refs made up for those non-calls by calling several tick-tack hooking calls on the Caps. We certainly know what the officiating is focused on.
Wade Brookbank tried to stick up for Letowski and challenged Brashear to a throw down, but the over-matched Carolina enforcer wasn't much of a challenge for the experienced heavyweight, Brashear. At least he gets points for trying.
This was another game where there were too many "stars" to single out just a few outstanding players. The entire team deserves a star. Matt Cullen was officially named first star of the game for potting 2 goals and earning an assist. Eric Staal and Joe Corvo also had 3 points with a goal and 2 assists each. Erik Cole, Sergei Samsonov, Ray Whitney, and Tim Conboy, yes Tim Conboy had two points each.
Conboy has somehow contributed almost double the points during his short stint with the Canes, (4 points in 6 games), than he has all year, (3 points in 49 games), in Albany. We'll have to take a closer look at Conboy later.
The recalled River Rats continued to play well and each contributed in their own way.
This win gives the Hurricanes a record of 6-0-1 in their past 7 home games. The team continues to use the Brind'Amour injury as an inspiration instead of as an excuse.
Next up in this homestand is New Jersey, a team which has man-handled Carolina in earlier contests this year. Can the Canes continue their winning ways?