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Never Leave Early: Canes 6, Leafs 5 in Shootout

The Carolina Hurricanes fell behind early, made a game of it in the second, fell behind by two goals again, tied it up in the third, allowed what appeared to be a game winner in the final minute, tied it up again with less than three seconds left, and then finally prevailed in a shootout to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-5 Thursday night at the RBC.

At times the team looked pitiful, at times they looked like champions.  It was like their season in a nutshell so far, all wrapped up in one game.

The Leafs scored first just one minute into the affair as Joe Corvo turned the puck over right in front of his own net.  The visitors had a three man forecheck going and the pressure certainly worked to their advantage on that play.

They scored again at the 12 minute mark when Rod Brind`Amour inexplicably left Lee Stempniak alone on a rush.  Brind'Amour skated to the center of the ice as the Leaf attacked at an angle.  Stempniak's shot beat Manny Legace easily to make it 2-0. 

Toronto made it 3-0 just before the intermission and some fans were wondering, what happened to the team that had just played Montreal to a regulation draw earlier this week?

But the Hurricanes came on strong in the second period. Stephane Yelle would score his first of the season when he dove on the ice to knock a loose puck into the net.  Less than a minute later, Matt Cullen found an open spot at an impossible angle to make the score 3-2.  The team had some life.

The third period was as wild as one can be.  The Leafs scored once again on a rush during a powerplay, making the score 4-2.  The Canes could have called it a night at that point, but they continued to fight. 

Eight minutes into the period, Tim Gleason made a nice play at the blueline to keep a puck in the zone, then fired a shot at the net which beat Jonas Gustavsson.  The crowd had new life and the team had some jump once again, but the defenseman was not yet finished. 

Just three minutes later, he pinched during a powerplay and Brandon Sutter found him with a perfect pass.  Gleason buried it, like he had been doing similar plays his entire life, giving him his first career two goal game.  Last year the defenseman did not have a single goal during the entire regular season.  Now he has four, his career high.

With the scored tied 4-4, both teams went back and forth but Carolina seemed to have more chances.  They outshot the Leafs 14-7 in that period.  But with 30 seconds left, Ian White got behind the defense and found an opening.  He would beat Legace for what appeared to be a game winner. 

The Hurricanes called a timeout and several fans headed for the exits, but the home team was not done yet.  In an all too familar move, they pulled the goalie to give themselves an advantage but for the first time this year, it paid off.  The puck went to the corner, then came back out front as Joe Corvo somehow found a way to get a shot through to the net. 

There was a bevy of humanity out front as Tuomo Ruutu tipped the puck and was clearing bodies while he was at it.  The puck bounced out to an open Erik Cole, who buried it.  There was just 1.9 seconds on the clock at the time, but the refs added another second after a review.  Regardless, it was a significant event, something to rally behind, and a possible turning point to the season.

After a scoreless overtime, Ruutu would make a beautiful move to score on his attempt in the shootout and Jussi Jokinen added to his fame, by easily scoring the insurance goal.  Manny Legace stopped both Toronto shooters and suddenly the Canes no longer find themselves in last place.

Can they use this as a watershed moment?

Game Notes:

  • The team had 45 shots on goal, compared to 32 for Toronto.  Corvo led the way with six.
  • The Canes were credited with 39 hits as Cole had eight and Ruutu had seven.
  • Ruutu had a monster game, (no pun intended) as he played almost 23 minutes, had four shots on goal to go with his seven hits, chipped in four assists, and finished with a team high +3.  
  • Gleason looked like he had been a goal scoring machine his entire career.  No doubt he needs to shoot more often, something the coaching staff has been telling him for years.
  • Erik Cole took a nasty tumble and flipped completely in the air as he was upended by Ian White while he tried to avoid a hip check.  The play looked legal but Cole was unhappy about it.  He went after White, drawing a penalty with a cross check, then both players dropped the gloves and fought briefly.  In the dressingroom after the game, the winger was still upset and said that "maybe he should start looking for some leg hits out there".  Obviously, he was angry because it was a similar play where he broke his leg earlier this season, but Cole might put himself in that position because of the way he tries to avoid those hits?  More discussion about this later.      
  • Rod Brind'Amour saw his ice time diminish in this game.  He had a total of 10:08 on the ice and a season low 21 seconds of powerplay time.  He picked up another -1 for the game and has an NHL worst -18 for the season. 
  • "The Monster" looked very human after the first period and both Carolina shooters seemed to beat him easily in the shootout.  

It's amazing, the difference in tempermant after the results of a shootout.  The team was sky high after that game, but if they would have lost in the shootout, they probably would have been down and upset.

There is a lot to be said about their effort and their will to win last night, regardless of the mistakes.  But will last night's success help to turn the season around?  We will find out Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.

(sorry for the delay with the recap, had technical problems)