The Carolina Hurricanes started out like a ball of fire, fell behind by two goals, but then poured it on in the third period to tie things up before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout last night, 3-2. Cam Ward stood on his head once again and made a couple of spectacular saves to keep the Canes in it. One particular save against Bill Guerin will make highlight reels around the continent today.
Carolina started the contest by hitting everything in sight. The team had 22 hits in the first period alone. While they did create some offensive pressure, Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in net and allowed nothing.
At about the 14 minute mark in the first period, the Carolina defense made a mistake and pinched in too much. The Penguins jumped all over the opportunity as the puck came to Evgeni Malkin and he found a hard skating Michael Rupp streaking toward the Carolina goal. Rupp, who normally plays on the fourth line, made a beautiful move on Ward and put the puck in the net to give the Pens the lead.
The goal deflated the Canes and Pittsburgh took over the game for awhile after that. The visitors ended up with more shots on goal in the period, 9-8.
The second period started much like the first one ended, with the Penguins controlling play. Near the four minute mark, Cane-killer, Malkin put a puck past the Carolina goalie which seemed to have eyes. The score was 2-0 and the visitors had all the momentum. The Canes were out-shot 14-9 in that period but Cam Ward tightened up his game after that second goal.
The final period might have been the best played by the Hurricanes this year. After being out-shot and out-hit in the second, they had new energy in the third. They controlled play in the Pittsburgh zone for much of the start until Ray Whitney slipped one by Fleury. It was "The Wizard's" first goal of the year and his 100th in a Hurricanes jersey.
After the game, Whitney modestly gave credit to his teammates for his success in Carolina. "I have been fortunate to play with players like Eric Staal, Matt Cullen, and Rod Brind'Amour. You can not be successful without players like that surrounding you."
With the score 2-1, the Pens would renew their offensive push and started to make trouble for the Carolina defense. That's when Ward robbed Guerin on a bam-bam play with the Penguin sniper getting a perfect pass right on the doorstep. Ward had already committed to his right, but stuck out his glove to stop the shot. The goalie also left a couple of other Pittsburgh shooters shaking their heads earlier in the night.
Ray Whitney would deflect in the tying goal at about the 10 minute mark, but try as they might, the Canes could not put the game-winner past Fleury. It was as an exciting period as you could ask for, with up and down, non-stop action.
The overtime period was all Pittsburgh though as the Canes constantly battled to clear their zone and dump the puck while the Pens concentrated on scoring opportunities. The Pens had four shots on goal while the Canes had zero.
The shootout went to six rounds. Jussi Jokinen and Sidney Crosby exchanged goals as second shooters for each team. Samsonov, Cullen, Whitney, Staal, and Ruutu missed shots for the Canes. (Cullen came very close as he hit iron with his attempt.) Chris Kunitz scored the game-winner.
Carolina players and coaches were happy after the game, feeling it was their best effort of the season. They are hoping they can carry forward the positive momentum for the game Saturday night in New Jersey.
- Carolina finished with a season high, 48 hits. Tim Gleason led the way with seven. Alberts and Kostopoulos had six each. Tuomo Ruutu finished with four, but got the hit of the night as he crushed Kris Letang on the forecheck.
- The Canes were out-shot 38-29 as Cam Ward made 36 saves in regulation and OT, as well as four more in the shootout. He was named the game's first star.
- Carolina got off the slide regarding faceoffs, (56%), led by Rod Brind`Amour with 82%. (9 of 11).
- Joe Corvo led the defense with four blocked shoots. Ward and Gleason each had three.
- Tim Gleason led both teams with 29:37 of ice time. Corvo was right behind with 29:01
- The Penguins looked very good at times and without Ward's heroics, the game could have been a lopsided affair.
- There was a meager crowd considering the event, (14,053), and many of those attending were Pittsburgh fans. Perhaps the Carolina crowds are starting the season out slowly, much like the team seems to do year after year?
- Tuomo Ruutu had two assists to go with Whitney's two goals. The Canes offense looked better when Whitney and Samsonov changed lines in the third period.
- The Hurricanes will not be home for another two weeks and will start the annual State Fair road trip in New Jersey on Saturday night.
(Here is some video I took of Cam Ward's postgame interview)