The Carolina Hurricanes have pretty much owned the Florida Panthers in recent memory. The Canes have not lost a game to them in Raleigh since 2002. While they did lose a couple to "kitty kats" in Sunrise earlier this year, their overall record is something like 14-4 over the last 18 games between the teams. While last night's contest was a tight one, the end result was the same as usual, a loss for the Panthers.
For the second game in a row, Trevor Letowski opened the scoring for Carolina on a shot that seemed to fool Tomas Vokoun because the goalie made no play on the puck. Letowski is certainly no Matt Cullen, but he is trying his best out there and has contributed while substituting for the ailing center.
The Hurricanes held onto the fragile one goal lead right up until early in the 3rd period when Stephen Weiss finally got one past Cam Ward. One can't say enough about Ward's game, he was outstanding. Some of his saves were highlight reel caliber, especially one when he robbed Olie Jokinen of an open net while almost literally standing on his head. Tomas Vokoun actually had more saves than Cam, but Ward was certainly harder pressed than his counterpart.
The game went into overtime, and then eventually to a shoot-out, something the Canes have not had a lot of success with in the past. Tonight was going to be different though. After Jeff Hamilton missed the first attempt, Sergei Samsonov got his shot past Vokoun, while Ward stopped both Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss. Eric Staal put the clincher in through the 5-hole and it was all over except for the crying, which will eventually come from the Florida coach's office like it does after every loss to Carolina. I'm just wondering what the excuse will be this time. Hopefully it will be something new.
I didn't necessarily think that the game was Carolina's best, but again they held in there and did what was needed to pull out the win. Cam Ward certainly made a huge difference. The line of Keith Aucoin, Ryan Bayda, and Scott Walker had another great game. While they didn't necessarily generate many grade A scoring chances that I can remember, they were able to control the puck in the Florida zone for minutes at a time by using their cycle game.
It was almost like watching the old "4-corners" delay game in basketball. The strategy was very effective because the defense needed some help in keeping the puck out of the Carolina zone and Cam Ward needed some type of break.
I thought that the penalty killers had another great game. While the PK may still be last in the league statistically speaking, they have not played like it these past few games. I believe that they have only allowed 1 powerplay goal in the last 35 or so attempts. Florida was 0-5 on the PP last night.
Wade Brookbank played, but was only on the ice for about 4 minutes. Matt Cullen was placed on the IR, but it was reported by Tripp Tracy that he was feeling better. Those head injuries can be unpredictable though.
The Canes now have a 7 point lead on Washington and 8 point lead on Florida. They have put themselves in excellent position to win the division, despite all the injuries and adversity. Can the Caps or Cats claw their way into 8th place in the Conference? Washington is 2 points out while Florida is 3.
The Canes get a few well deserved days off now and don't play again until next week Tuesday night.
Once in a Lifetime-Talking Heads