The Carolina Hurricanes jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and never looked back as they defeated the Atlanta Thrashers last night by a score of 5-3. In my opinion, the score could have been much worse if the Canes had kept constant pressure on, but with another game tonight in Sunrise Florida, there really wasn't any need to expend that extra energy.
Trevor Letowski opened the scoring for the Canes on a nice back-handed pass from Patrick Eaves, just 4 minutes into the game. "Moose" Hedberg really didn't make much of a play on the puck as he never left his feet on the low shot.
About 3 minutes later, Sergei Samsonov continued his magic as he stole a puck, circled to get open, and shot it in from around the high slot area making the score 2-0. Erik Cole and Eric Staal should have gotten honorary assists on the play because their forechecking pressured the Thrashers into making the key mistake.
Eric Staal fired in his 35th goal of the season on a nice feed from Jeff Hamilton. Hamilton played a very good game on his return. He finished the night with 2 assists and possibly his best hit of the season. The period ended with the score 3-0.
In the 2nd period, the Thrashers came out with much more jump. But obviously, the Hurricanes weren't skating as hard as they were previously. Atlanta's Bryan Little made it 3-1, but less than 2 minutes later newcomer Joe Jensen scored his first career NHL goal on yet another beautiful feed from Jeff Hamilton, putting the Canes back up by three, 4-1.
The Thrashers kept up the pressure as the Carolina defense was a bit loose in their own end. Steve McCarthy scored, bringing Atlanta closer at 4-2. But then the Carolina defense played a little harder and Cam Ward didn't allow another goal in the period. The 2nd ended up 4-2.
Erik Cole finally graced the scoresheet as he banged in his own rebound about 15 minutes into the 3rd. Slava Kozlov finished the scoring with a meaningless goal with only 30 seconds left on the clock, and the contest ended up 5-3.
A few afterthoughts....
It could just be me, but I had the feeling that this game could have been 10-2 if the Hurricanes really wanted to run up the score. Atlanta is a pretty pitiful bunch right now. There wasn't a whole lot of hitting or intensity in the game. Peter Laviolette didn't seem happy afterwards as he made these comments.
"We were on the short end of quite a few things â€" work ethic, determination, grit. There were a couple guys who played that way, but as a whole we needed to be better than what we were. Weâ€™ve been better than what we were tonight."
Hey Peter, you won the game! I'm not sure I agree with that harsh assessment. But as a coach, I guess I can see what he's trying to say. You don't want the team to start being complacent at this point in the year, but it's just one game, and a game they had well in hand. I can understand them not hitting with intensity in this game. Why wake up a sleeping team? Why get them fired up and upset? It didn't seem to me like Atlanta played that much harder than the Canes did, most of the time.
Also, perhaps they were saving some of the intensity for tonight's game against Florida. Chances are they will need it because the Panthers are riding high on a 7 game winning streak.
Carolina's win gave them a bit of breathing room because Washington lost badly in Chicago by the score of 5-0. The Canes now lead the Caps by 5 points and the Panthers by 7. The team has an amazing 13-3-1 record in their last 17 games. Can they keep it up?