Brandon Sutter scored two goals and Jussi Jokinen chipped in with a goal and an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Minnesota Wild, 4-3 in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday.
After falling behind 1-0 just three minutes and change into the game, the Canes hung on for much of the remainder of the period, helped out by the solid goaltending of Cam Ward. But with less than a minute left, Cam Barker went to the box for the Wild and the Canes took full advantage.
Jamie McBain then placed a perfect pass to Jokinen who had skated behind the Wild defense, then Jokinen found Brandon Sutter in front of the net. Sutter made it look easy, but he paid the price to put himself in scoring position. The passing by McBain and Jokinen was in midseason form.
About five minutes into the second period, Anton Babchuk would give Carolina the lead as he backhanded a loose puck past a sprawled out Nicklas Backstrom. Erik Cole helped to create the play, but the puck bounced out to the defenseman, who had joined the rush during the sequence. Zac Dalpe picked up his first NHL point with the second assist.
The second period was a fast paced one and Matt Cullen tied the score with a powerplay tally for the Wild just inside the 10 minute mark. But the Canes kept attacking and ended up with a long 5 on 3 opportunity a couple of minutes later. Again, Carolina would capitalize and Jussi Jokinen would get credit for the goal as his shot deflected in off of a Wild defenseman. Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen were credited with the helpers.
Late in the period, Brandon Sutter would strike again. Patrick Dwyer started the play, then threw the puck at the net. The rebound came out to Sutter, who was crashing the net and it looked like the puck bounced in off his skate. It was an opportune play, but again, one that Sutter created with his hustle.
With the score 4-2 in the third period, one had the feeling the Wild would be throwing everything at the net and the Canes would go into defense mode, but the Hurricanes counter-attacked nicely when appropriate and didn't stop thinking about offense. Cam Ward made a couple more sterling saves, but the Canes repeatedly got themselves into penalty trouble and on their third penalty of the period, the Wild finally took advantage and scored their second powerplay tally of the contest to make it 4-3, with three minutes and change left.
Minnesota cranked up some pressure at the end but the Canes held on and ran out the clock to capture their first win of the season. The same two teams will go at it again to close out the series tomorrow in Finland.
- Sutter was named the game's first star. He had two goals, was (+1), and played a solid defensive game. He was 42% in the faceoff circle, (11 of 26).
- As a team, the Canes won 39% of faceoffs. To go along with Sutter's 42%, Eric Staal was 29%, (7 of 24) and Jussi Jokinen was 54%. Zac Dalpe was 0 for 7 for 0%.
- Joni Pitkanen led all skaters with 27:35 of ice time. Joe Corvo was next for the Canes with 24:47.
- The Hurricanes put a total of 31 shots on goal, led by Anton Babchuk with 5. The offensive minded defenseman picked up where he left off for the Canes in 2008-09 when he was the 5th highest scoring defenseman in the NHL with 16 goals. He also tied for a team high 4 blocked shots. Pitkanen also had 4 blocked shots.
- Chad LaRose led all Canes with 4 hits, followed by Patrick Dwyer with 3.
- Give Dwyer a star for solid play on both sides of the ice. Sutter had a team high 5:32 on the PK followed by Dwyer with 4:30.
- Carolina finished 2 for 5 on the powerplay and starts the season at 40%.
- Cam Ward made 26 saves on 29 shots.
Notes: All in all, the Hurricanes will be very happy with the win, but there was some sloppy play in their own end which will need to be cleaned up. (Not surprising on game one of the season.) The lines still might need some tweaking. Not sure about the first line of Staal, Cole, and LaRose. Corvo and Pitkanen didn't look at ease in that pairing and seemed to get in each other's way. While the overall faceoff winning percentage was poor, the team won three huge faceoffs late in the game to control the puck. Carolina really took advantage of their team speed and beat the Wild down the ice several times, especially in the second period when they scored three goals.