The Carolina Hurricanes took command of game six early and did not let go of it as they dominated the New Jersey Devils, 4-0 in front of a rambunctious, sell out crowd at the RBC last night. About midway through the first period they grabbed the lead and they never looked back. At one time late in that opening period, the Canes were out-shooting the Devils 13-2.
Ray Whitney opened the scoring on a beautiful hand-eye play as he knocked a puck out of mid air past goalie Martin Brodeur. Eric Staal got the puck to Whitney from behind the net and "The Wizard" would end up with four points, (1G 3A), on the night.
Coach Paul Maurice followed through on his promise to mix up the lines, and obviously his plan worked out perfectly. Staal centered Whitney and LaRose while Matt Cullen was moved to the Cole and Ruutu line. The result was the best game of the series for both Staal and Whitney, who had instant chemistry playing together.
Eric Staal scored his third and fourth goals of the series during the second period, both on beautiful feeds from Whitney. The Canes closed out their scoring in the third as Whitney once again made a perfect pass across the crease to Jussi Jokinen, who one-timed it past Brodeur during a 5-on-3 advantage.
In the meantime at the other end of the ice, Cam Ward was flawless and earned his first shutout of these playoffs. While he was not pressed as hard as Brodeur was, he did make some tough saves at key times to keep his team in control of the contest.
The Canes will fly to New Jersey tomorrow to prepare for the all-or-nothing game on Tuesday night where they know they will have their work cut out for them. Much more analysis about game seven coming up later.
Anton Babchuk returned to action and had a decent game. He kept the puck in the zone at an important time which ended up leading to the game's first goal. My guess is that he will not be benched again for game seven.
The fourth line of Walker, Bayda, and Jokinen could have been the second best line combo of the game. They were finally rewarded with much more playing time as Bayda logged 9:38 for the lowest on the team.
Whitney and Staal together were electric. They had played together on the same line earlier in the year, but were broken up to try to balance out the scoring a bit. But at this point, one consistent scoring line might be enough to get through this series.
Chad LaRose was finally rewarded with some powerplay time, (2:40). The Canes looked much better with the man advantage, even if they only scored during the 5-on-3.
Dennis Seidenberg had five hits and two blocked shots. Jussi Jokinen was credited with six hits, which led the team. Tim Gleason had four blocked shots.
Gleason also dropped the gloves with David Clarkson, even though he shook his head "no" as the two clinched. Apparently, Clarkson did not take no for an answer.
Eric Staal had a huge game and now leads both teams with four goals scored during the series. This game might have answered one particular critic over at Puck Daddy who is under some kind of an illusion that the All Star can not perform under pressure against grade A competition.
Sergei Samsonov was able to play and had a steady performance. Even if he does not score a point, having him in the lineup is huge because it gives the team four balanced lines.
Yes, I was the one who said that Maurice might have been over-coaching, and had been out-coached up through game five. I still believe that benching Dennis Seidenberg after the first game, and then benching Anton Babchuk for game five, were both mistakes. Seidenberg has proven his value time and time again. And all it takes is Babchuk just one time to get one of his patented shots through, and that could have been a difference in game five's 1-0 loss.
Maurice was threatening to switch the lines back and forth during the course of this game, but he didn't need to because Whitney. Staal, and LaRose were dominating from the first moment they hit the ice. Putting them together was a gutsy and brilliant move and now puts the onus on Brent Sutter to make a counter-move. Will Sutter be consistent with his lines or try something new? The "ZZ Pop" line has been quiet lately, although "Pop" has been hurt. Also, if they focus their best defense on the new Staal, Whitney line, it should open things up for Cullen, Ruutu, and Cole. We will see.
Funny, when asked after the game if he was going to change the lines again, he replied, "I think a few Caniacs might want to string me up if I did". Looks like the lines will stay the same for game seven.
This has been a classic series so far and all signs point to a great game for all the marbles on Tuesday night.
Post game interviews below: