A couple of months ago, Sergei Samsonov was toiling away for the Chicago Blackhawks, not even able to score a single goal in the 23 games he played for them this season. The frustrated franchise put the Russian sniper on the waiver wire and every team in the NHL passed. When he came back through a second time on re-entry waivers, Jim Rutherford said, "why not?", and picked him up. All he has done since then is to impress.
Last night, Samsonov added to his RBC lore by scoring both Carolina goals as the Hurricanes beat the number one team in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils by a score of 2-1 in overtime. The game had all the drama and presence of a playoff game.
Newcomer Tuomo Ruutu, also formerly from Chicago didn't land at RDU until almost 6:30, just minutes before game time. The Hurricanes arranged a police escort for the player so that he could make it to the arena as soon as possible. The strategy worked as Tuomo got to the rink at about 6:48 and suited up just in time for the game. Not only did he play but he performed very well, especially for someone who didn't even take a warm up skate!
On one of Ruutu's very first shifts, he plastered Jersey defenseman Colin White with a crushing hit which immediately endeared him to Caniacs. Later on in the night, he also leveled Patrik Elias. The Finn played over 15 minutes, had a plus one, and earned an assist in his Carolina debut. Unfortunately, he also took a stick to the face on two occasions, once drawing a penalty and another time with no penalty called, even though the infraction cut open a wide gash on his face. The injured skater left a trail of blood all the way across the ice and later it required 40 stitches to close the wound. Welcome to the Hurricanes, Tuomo, where you can almost get your head taken off and still not get a penalty call.
Speaking of injuries, Tim Gleason took a very nasty high hit early in the game from Michael Rupp. Rupp was given a 5 minute boarding penalty, but the penalty was neutralized because of two minor penalties called on the Hurricanes. In the meantime, Gleason had to be carried from the ice and was unable to return. He'll have some tests done today to check on the extent of the damage. To Rupp's credit, he dropped the gloves with Wade Brookbank a bit later as some frontier justice was served. That's not going to make Tim Gleason feel any better though.
The Hurricanes started out somewhat slowly, but Cam Ward was on top of his game and made some nice saves when he was needed. The 1st period ended in a 0-0 tie. The Devils graced the scoreboard first in the 2nd period when Bret Hedican accidentally knocked the puck into his own net. It looked as though Brian Gionta was trying to throw a pass through the crease. Hedican was facing Ward and must not have realized where he was on the ice because he reached out his stick and deflected the puck in perfectly for Jersey's only score of the night.
It didn't take long for Carolina to tie it up though. Toward the end of a powerplay, Keith Aucoin took a pass from Ruutu and faked with the puck as he skated in toward Martin Brodeur. Then he rifled a shot toward the crease where both Samsonov and Ruutu were camped. Sergei got his stick on the rebound and shot it past the Devils goalie for the score.
The Hurricanes dominated the 3rd period, holding the puck in the Jersey zone for minutes at a time and generating scoring chance after scoring chance. They were not able to slip another puck past Brodeur though as the game went into over-time.
That is when Samsonov made the play of the night as he skated the puck into the zone and shot it on net. Brodeur made the initial stop, but the rebound came out to Sergei and he was able to tap this one into the net for the win. The team mobbed the happy Russian who was easily the number one star of the night. Cam Ward was the number 2 star while Ruutu was voted number 3.
Observations from Bubba's Bloggers Box.....
Brodeur still gets on my nerves. At one point last night he complained to the refs about getting sprayed with ice as a Carolina skater stopped quickly in front of him. Is it a penalty to spray Martin Brodeur?
Mick McGeough hasn't improved at all with age. He argued with Peter Laviolette about the no-call on Ruutu, I guess claiming that the Finn was cut on Elias' follow-through. At the end of the game, they said Elias used the butt of his stick.
There was another time when Eric Staal was getting mugged after the whistle was blown while Eric was in the Jersey crease. Wade Brookbank's brother, Sheldon was pounding away on Eric with no gloves on, but was just given a 2 minute roughing penalty. Staal was given a matching 2 minutes for getting beaten in the face while being held down. (slashing?).
Coach Peter Laviolette has a lot of thinking to do about how to handle the lines. He tried to break up the Aucoin, Bayda, and Walker combination as Aucoin initially started out centering the 4rth line. But the Captain from Albany was skating too hard and too fast to be kept there. He soon earned his way back with his buds and they were a fun grouping to watch the rest of the night.
This was another extremely entertaining game to watch and many players stepped up and played very well.
Toumu Ruutu had a very good debut and if he is able to keep up this intensity, I doubt that many fans will be complaining about trading away Andrew Ladd. I checked the box score of a few other games and Tuomo was the only player I noticed besides Adam Foote, who was traded today, that also played tonight. Fedorov, Hossa, Huet, Cooke, Dupuis, Richards, and none of the ex-Penguin's guys made it to Atlanta for game time. Huge kudos to Ruutu for making the extra effort so that he could attend this game, especially under tough circumstances.
Patrick Eaves made his debut as well last night, but played rather sparingly since this was his first game back from an injury. Trevor Letowski was a healthy scratch and Jeff Hamilton was re-assigned to Albany.
The win gives Carolina a 7-0-1 record in their past 8 home games! Next up is the New York Rangers on Thursday night.