It was an interesting Tuesday for the Carolina Hurricanes. Earlier in the day, the league announced that the Canes would open their season next year in Helsinki, Finland. Later that evening, the Finns on the team celebrated with a "Finn Hat Trick", as Joni Pitkanen, Jussi Jokinen, and Tuomo Ruutu each scored while leading the Hurricanes to a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Jokinen's goal was his 21st of the season, making him the leading goal scorer on the team. The hot winger currently has a seven game scoring streak and has 20 points in his last 16 games.
While the Finns all contributed, Matt Cullen was first star of the game and had a goal and two assists to lead all scorers. Cullen is also on a roll and now has 11 points in his last 13 games.
After a slow and scoreless first period, Jokinen drew first blood when he put back an Eric Staal rebound early in the second.
A few minutes later though, Cory Stillman tied the score off of a nice pass by Stephen Weiss. But later in the period, Joni Pitkanen would put the Canes ahead for good with a blast from the blueline.
In the third period, Matt Cullen made a perfect toe-drag move and beat goalie Tomas Vokoun as Tom Kostopoulos skated to the side of the net acting as a perfect decoy. Then Ruutu scored his goal on an empty netter with just a minute and change left in the game.
After missing 15 games, it was good to see the Ruutu score. Fans loved it, as they got to fully enjoy "Tuomo Ruutu Bobblehead Night".
The next opponent will be Buffalo at the RBC on Thursday night.
- Manny Legace earned the win and had a solid performance. He made 19 saves on 20 shots and did not look rusty at all. The team is now 3-0 since Cam Ward's most recent back injury and Legace has two of those wins.
- Eric Staal's assist kept his scoring touch rolling. The center now has 21 points in the last 16 games. He and Jussi Jokinen have some excellent chemistry brewing and they came very close to lighting the lamp a couple of other times in the game.
- In the first period, Tim Gleason dropped the gloves with Gregory Campbell and dropped the Florida forward as well. But later in the game, the Carolina defenseman took a puck to the face and needed to leave for medical attention. Of course, he returned to the game shortly afterward, wearing a visor along with 12 stitches, but no worse for the wear. Later on, he picked up an assist on the Cullen goal and was awarded third star of the game.
- Aaron Ward led the team with four blocked shots. He also had an assist and finished the night at +1
- The Canes had 30 shots on goal compared to 20 for the Panthers. Eric Staal had six, a team high.
- The Carolina penalty kill keeps firing on all cylinders and has now killed 29 of 30 penalties in the last seven games.