It was a fight-filled, penalty ridden contest, but the Carolina Hurricanes stood up to the physical play of the Colorado Avalanche, jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the back of two goals by Ray Whitney, then held on behind the goaltending of Cam Ward, as they defeated the Avs, 2-1 on Friday night at the RBC.
The visitors knew that the Canes might be tired because the club did not arrive back from Nashville until 2 a.m. They tried to out-muscle the home team the entire first period.
But the first fight of the game had nothing to do with that strategy and everything to do with retribution. Darcy Tucker challenged Tuomo Ruutu on his second shift of the game and Ruutu dropped the gloves with the savvy, more experienced antagonist. Ruutu hit Tucker from behind earlier this season in Colorado and served his three game suspension, but apparently hockey justice had not yet been served, at least not in Tucker's eyes.
The Colorado player wanted his own brand of justice and Ruutu was honorable enough to oblige. But while the Finn probably won the fight, he might have lost the battle. After being separated from the pesky Av, the winger skated immediately to the dressing room and then reportedly left the arena.
Coach Paul Maurice said after the game that he did not hurt his hand, which is what looked like happened on the video, but he did not give further details. We will have to wait to find out more.
Soon after the fight, Cody McLeod was called for charging and the Canes powerplay unit took the ice. Matt Cullen fed Ray Whitney on a rush, who promptly faked out a defenseman as well as the Colorado goalie, then neatly tucked the game's first goal in the net.
It was the first powerplay goal for the Hurricanes in the last 11 attempts and first one of the new year.
The penalties and rough stuff continued, but the Canes ended up killing off the penalties they needed to as they were called for seven minors and two fighting majors in the period. Tom Kostopoulos also dropped the mitts with Ryan Wilson late in the first.
Ray Whitney struck again just 37 seconds into the second when he faked out Peter Budaj once again to make the score 2-0. The winger faked a shot on the goalie, then snapped a quick one by him at a tight angle.
There would be yet another fight as Tim Gleason went after Chris Stewart just four seconds after the goal, but things finally quieted down after that and both teams concentrated more on hockey.
Ray Whitney said after the game that the players didn't really have much choice but to settle down. "It's too tiring to keep playing like that all game long", said the veteran. And indeed, the Canes did tire a bit in the third. But Cam Ward was on his "A" game throughout and looked like he was headed for his first shut out of the season until the Avs ruined that as Brandon Yip scored with just 15.5 seconds left.
Whitney had a chance for a hat trick as he missed a long backhanded attempt on an open net at the end of the game, but he'll have to wait for another day for his next "hattie".
The Hurricanes will practice Saturday at noon at the Rec Zone in preparation for their next match on Sunday at 5 against the Ottawa Senators.
- It was difficult to tell what exactly happened with Ruutu and of course no one gave any specifics after the game, (other than it was not his hand). He could be out for a few games or possibly even longer. After the game, Ray Whitney defended Ruutu's actions in the dressing room. It’s kind of a code of ethics. When you hit a guy the way he did and knock him out, you have to kind of answer it. He was a man about it and lined up with him. He did what was required in the game of hockey, and unfortunately, he hurt himself doing it. But as his teammates, you respect him even more for standing up and doing what was needed."
- Matt Cullen played an excellent game. Not only did he get the two primary assists on the Whitney goals, he also won 79% of his faceoffs, (19 of 24).
- The kids from Albany did pretty well again. While they did not necessarily stand out offensively, they played a very good defensive game. Samson only had 7:59 of TOI, but with so many penalties to kill, the lack of ice time is understandable.
- Aaron Ward played another good game and led the team with four hits as well as four blocked shots. The defenseman has had a couple of good games in a row now. Niclas Wallin also had four hits.
- There were 42 penalty minutes in the first period alone, (24 for the Canes), as the teams finished up with a combined total of 58 minutes of penalties assessed in the game.
- Carolina is now 10-3-1 when leading after the second period.
- Cam Ward's last shutout was on April 9, 2009 with a 9-0 beat down of the New York Islanders.
Attached is a portion of the media's interview with Ray Whitney after the game.