Eric Staal and Ray Whitney each had three points while helping the Carolina Hurricanes jump out to a lead, then hold on to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 on Friday night at the RBC. Scott Walker got things started as he put back a Staal rebound late in the opening period while the Canes outshot the Thrashers, 15-1 and dominated play.
Staal then scored himself in the second as he skated the puck in alone and flipped it near the front of the net. Thrashers defenseman Paul Postma inadvertently tipped it in and made the score 2-0.
But Atlanta stormed back to make a game out of it. They scored a goal later in the second and another early in the third to tie the contest.
The Canes then took advantage of a 5 on 3 as Joe Corvo rifled in a shot from the point. Later in the period, Erik Cole used one of his patented moves and took a puck in the Atlanta zone on a rush then fed an open Ray Whitney who made no mistake.
The Canes ended up needing that insurance goal as Michael Vernace scored less than a minute later, which was a goal that Cam Ward probably wished he had back. But Carolina held on for the win and will try to close out the preseason on a positive note tonight in Nashville.
- Ray Whitney appeared to be hit in the face with a puck near the end of the game and left the ice immediately. Paul Maurice said after the game that it was not serious, he seemed to have gotten hit with the flat end of the puck and Ray was going to be okay.
- Tom Kostopoulos dropped the gloves with Josh Gratton in the first period and both combatants delivered heavy blows until Gratton dropped "Tommy K" with a stinging right hand. The Carolina forward was dazed and confused as he wobbled to the bench with help from Pete Friesen. He was later cleared to go back into the game and apparently argued with the coaching staff about it, (face to face), but Maurice said he stuck to his guns and would not let him back in.
- The fourth line looked good and was close to doing some damage on the scoreboard before the altercation and injury to Kostopoulos. After that, the coaches were challenged into mixing and matching the lines and the previous continuity seemed to suffer a bit.
- Eric Boulton tried to goad Scott Walker and Tim Gleason into dropping the gloves later in the game, but both declined. Walker injured himself in a preseason fight last year and missed about 20 games with a broken hand. I asked him after the game if he felt tempted to go with Boulton anyway, regardless of what happened last year.
Yes, last year I had trouble with that. It's tough sometimes the way the game plays out, but you have to look at the bigger picture. You try to grow with maturity and it's unfortunate sometimes when things like that happen in the game, and guys do come after you. You don't want to not do it, but again you have to look at the grand picture because obviously October 2nd is more important to us right now. But you still want to be ready to play and you want to be on the edge. But I was definitely making a conscious effort not to go with him.
- Walker had a good overall game and finished with his goal, three hits, and a +1.
- The defensive pairings were as follows: Gleason/Corvo, Ward/Alberts, Harrison/Wallin. Ward left the game for a bit with a stinger from blocking a shot and Wallin was knocked down and limped back to the bench at one point. But both returned to play in the game.
Aaron Ward was a shot blocking machine. He led the team by far with five blocks.
- Jay Harrison looked good out there. He seems to have the quickness to jump into play when needed, but drop back as well and as Cory mentioned last night, is not shy about shooting the puck.
- Chad LaRose had five shots on goal and was buzzing all night. Staal led the team with six.
- Tim Gleason led the team with five hits while Tuomo Ruutu had four. Newcomers Alberts and Ward had three each.
- The Canes obviously took their foot off the gas pedal after gaining a 2-0 lead and at one time had a shots on goal advantage of 19-2. But the Thrashers could have taken a lead at one point themselves as Cam Ward was forced into making a couple of highlight reel, sprawling saves.
- Jussi Jokinen looked fine for his first game back from injury. He was matched with Ruutu and Cullen.
- Maurice said that Walker, LaRose, Ruutu, and Staal looked good to him. He was really pleased with Ruutu's intensity.
- Eric Staal was the game's first star and also shined in the faceoff circle winning 69%, (11/16) of his draws. Matt Cullen had a horrible night with draws as he only won 19%, (3/16).