The Chicago Blackhawks shook off any jetlag they might have had after the first period and outshot the Carolina Hurricanes by large margins in the second, (16-6) and third periods, (15-8), but Carolina goalie Cam Ward stayed hot as he stopped 39 of 41 shots and helped his team to earn their fourth straight victory as the Canes beat the 'Hawks 4-2, Saturday night at the RBC.
Ward has now played in 21 straight games and in the last few he's been performing like he thinks he's in the playoffs. During the Canes four game winning streak, Ward has 129 saves on 134 shots for a save percentage of .963
Some of last night's saves were spectacular. For instance, near the end of the game Patrick Kane had an open, point blank try at the doorstep and Ward robbed him. Earlier in the game there was a puck sliding along the goal line which Ward was also able to keep out until the ref blew his whistle.
Nothing was easy for the netminder in this matchup as he was able to successfully defend against numerous odd man rushes.
The Canes battled the visitors pretty evenly in the opening period. With just 10 seconds left on the clock, Sergei Samsonov knocked in a loose puck behind Cristobal Huet to make the score 1-0. Credit should also go to Tom Kostopoulos who had crashed the crease on the play because he initially got the puck past the Chicago goalie.
Marian Hossa was able to tie the game though, just six minutes into the second.
The old Hurricanes might have crumbled after being tied in the past, but not these Hurricanes. Later in the period, Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen put on a passing display as they skated around in the Chicago zone. Eventually, Staal would pass cross ice to Jokinen and the Finn would score his 17th goal of the season, tying his previous career best.
The Canes are 11-1-3 when Jokinen scores a goal.
Andrew Ladd scored one against his ex-mates to tie things up again in the third. Cam Ward said he might hear it from "Ladder" after the game, but at least "Wardo" had the last laugh because his team got the win. The Blackhawks were dominating the game at this point and had held the puck in the Carolina zone most of the period.
But once again the Canes had an answer for the Blackhawks' goal. This time Brandon Sutter would crash the net and tip in a Chad LaRose shot. The goal proved to be the game-winner, the first of the season for the 20 year old.
Paul Maurice had nothing but good things to say about the "Sutter line". He mentioned earlier that the success of that line opens things up for the other lines, and that proved to be the case again last night.
The Canes closed out the scoring just 26 seconds later when Matt Cullen tipped in another goal, this time off the shot of Tom Kostopoulos.
Chicago would put on a lot of pressure in the Carolina zone from then on, but were unable to solve Ward and the Canes held on to the 4-2 win.
There will not be a practice Sunday as the team is scheduled to leave at noon for Edmonton and start their four game road trip.
- Kudos to the 6,896 hearty souls who attended the game. The roads were a mess but thankfully they were passable. There was a substitute PA announcer for the game and a sub anthem singer as well. Our friend and regular anthem singer, Katherine Fritsch, had a sledding accident and could not make it to the game. We wish her the very best and hope that she feels better soon.
- Not only has Cam Ward been hot in recent games, the team's scoring has picked up as well. The Canes have scored 18 goals during their four game winning streak and 25 goals in their last six games, winning five of those six.
- Eric Staal continued his scoring streak with an assist and now has points in eight straight games. He has scored 38 points in the 28 games since his return from injury. Staal is now tied with Jeff O'Neill for fifth in franchise history in assists, (218).
- Jussi Jokinen currently ranks second in scoring among Finnish born players in the NHL. Too bad that is not good enough to make the Olympics. (I quickly asked Jokinen in the dressing room if he had heard anything new from Team Finland and he said no).
- Andrew Alberts helped out with two assists on the night. He also had three hits to add on to his team-leading total of 155.
- Tom Kostopoulos also had two assists. He has been all that was advertised and has been a consistent performer this season.
- Brett Carson led the team with five blocked shots and played another solid game. I asked him how he has been able to fit in so well since being called up to help out on the big club. "I have been playing a lot with Alberts and he and I are pretty similar players. I'm able to read off him pretty well now and try to keep my game simple, and let the other players try to make plays". When asked about the blocked shots he said, "Chicago has a great team and they were really cycling the puck there, especially in the third period. If I can get in front of "Wardo" and block a few, I'm certainly going to try".
- Sergei Samsonov's score gives him three goals in the last three games.
- Carolina finished 0-2 on the powerplay but held Chicago to 0-3.
- The team was credited with 26 hits led by Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts, and Chad LaRose who had three each.
- Matt Cullen was 9-11 in the faceoff circle for 81%. The Canes were 67% overall.
Below is a video of the Jussi Jokinen post game interview.
And coach Paul Maurice in his post game press conference.