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Erik Cole Breaks Through with Hat Trick: Hurricanes 5, Canucks 3

The Carolina Hurricanes, (6-17-5) put an end to their five game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks, (16-13-0) on Saturday afternoon at the RBC.  Erik Cole netted the first hat trick of the season for the last place club.  It was Cole's sixth hat trick of his career and his first in two seasons.

Manny Legace earned the victory and now leads all Carolina goalies with three wins. 

The Canes had a lot of jump and for the most part played a very good game as they surged to a 4-1 lead after two periods, but fans got nervous as the Canucks would pull within a goal later on.  With the score 4-3 and visions of another meltdown on many minds, the Canes killed an incorrectly called penalty, added an empty net goal, and hung on for just their third regulation win of the season.

The first period seemed to be a fairly even one, although the 'Nucks outshot the Canes 14-7.  Keep in mind the home team had to kill two penalties during that time frame as well.  Vancouver started the scoring off when Jannik Hansen would squeeze one by Manny Legace. 

It looked like a softie, but Legace said afterward that the puck ticked Joni Pitkanen's stick and just got by him.  He called it "bad luck". 

It didn't matter though as Ray Whitney roofed a backhander past Andrew Raycroft just 20 seconds later to tie the score.  Whitney had a great game, chipped in with two more assists, and was a pest all over the ice. 

Eric Staal had a beautiful point blank chance during the period, but tried to over-fake and ended up too close to the crease as Raycroft stopped him easily.  Staal had a very good game, but that was a move which seemed to indicate that he has little confidence in his shot.  Normally, he would try a wrister in that situation from 10 to 15 feet out.

Steve Yzerman and a couple of others from Team Canada's brain trust were in the press box monitoring Staal's game.  They could not have been too disappointed as the Carolina center finished with two assists, four shots on goal, and a +1. 

The Hurricanes came out with a vengeance in the second period and jumped out to a 4-1 lead.  At one point, they were out-shooting the visitors by an 8-1 margin.

Erik Cole started things off with his first goal, a perfectly placed wrist shot on an odd man rush.  He had a similar chance in the first period as well, but just missed.  Ray Whitney and Tim Gleason had the assists.

Sergei Samsonov then found himself all alone with the puck in front of Raycroft.  He faked the goalie and also roofed his shot to make the score 3-1.  Tuomo Ruutu and Matt Cullen worked to get a turnover at the blue line and created the opportunity.

Cole would get his second goal of the night on a strange play as the Canucks lost track of the puck in the crease and ended up putting it into their own net.  It looked like defenseman Willie Mitchell might have kicked the puck in, but it was hard to tell.  Raycroft might have put it in himself. 

Number 26 joked afterward that while he took his buddy out to dinner the night before, "it was not that expensive of a dinner."

The third period started out all too familiar for the home team.  The last time they took a 4-1 lead into the third period eight days ago against Atlanta, the Thrashers lit the lamp five straight times and won the game 6-4. 

Once again, the Canes appeared to go into defensive mode and the Canucks were able to hold the puck in the Carolina zone for what seemed to be minutes at a time.  Ten minutes into the third they scored their first goal of the period, then would score again less than five minutes later.

The Hurricanes called timeout to re-group, but faced real adversity as Sergei Samsonov was called for high sticking on a freak play as a Vancouver player was hit in the face with the puck.  Samsonov tried to hit the puck in the air but missed and replays showed that he never touched the Canuck.  But the ref didn't see it that way and the winger went to the penalty box with just 2:57 left in the game. 

Last month or even last week, the team might have allowed the adversity to overcome them and submit to a tying goal, but not so on Saturday.  They killed the penalty and as Vancouver pulled their goalie to keep the pressure on, Cole would score the empty netter to seal the deal.

The Canes now go on a very rough four game road trip as they will visit Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington, and Ottawa before returning home for a rematch against the Dallas Stars on December 16.

Game Notes:

  • Carolina is now 5-2-2 when they score three goals or more.  The problem?  They have scored two goals or less 19 times this season and have a record of 1-15-3 when that happens.
  • Matt Cullen has now scored in five consecutive games.  He displayed a couple of breathtaking moves and played another overall solid game.
  • Legace made several tough stops as Vancouver would periodically put heavy pressure on him.  Coach Paul Maurice was happy with his game and said that the goalie is a real battler.  "But, he has to be", the coach added. The Canes will need to make a big decision this coming week concerning their goalies when Cam Ward returns.  Let me just say that opinions were mixed in press row on what will happen.  More about this soon.
  • The team didn't have many chances with the man advantage but converted one of two opportunities.  They remain at 29th in the league at that important statistic.
  • Carolina was given credit for 41 hits although it did not seem to be that physical of a game.  The 'Nucks only had 20.  Tom Kostopoulos led the way with seven and Scott Walker looked no worse for wear with five. 
  • The fourth line of Brind'Amour, Yelle, and Walker looked good although that might be the oldest line in the NHL.  (someone said the average age is 36).
  • Joni Pitkanen led the way with very reasonable 24:43 of ice time.  Low ice time for the team was just over 10 minutes for Walker.  Maurice will probably need to continue to spread the ice time and play four lines as the games come up fast and furious next week.
  • Jussi Jokinen was scratched although Maurice said that the Finn wanted to play.  The coach held him out because he was not 100% and probably the worst injured of the forwards.  But while Chad LaRose had good jump this game, the coach might want to switch places between these two.

Here is some post-game video of Manny Legace meeting with the press.