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Carolina Special Teams Fall Short: Canadiens 4, Hurricanes 3

The Montreal Canadiens broke up a tight game late in the third period with a powerplay goal, then held on to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. 

Andrei Kostitsyn tipped in a shot by Roman Hamrlik with 3:53 left on the clock for the game-winner.  The powerplay opportunity was the first and only chance the home team had with the man advantage all game.

The Hurricanes went 0 for 4 with their chances.

The Canes jumped out to another lead in this game as the combination of Jiri Tlusty, Jussi Jokinen, and Brandon Sutter connected for a 1-0 lead.  Tlusty made a nice play behind the Habs net and found Sutter, who hit the post with his attempt.  The rebound popped out to Jokinen, who made no mistake.

The Canadiens would score two in a row before the end of the period though, first when Mike Cammalleri zipped one past Cam Ward to tie things up, then after Kostitisyn took the puck away from Brett Carson and fed it to Lars Eller, who beat an unsuspecting Ward in front of the net. 

But the Canes came out hard in the second period and matched their opponents hit for hit, and shot for shot.

Tuomo Ruutu tied the game two minutes and change into the period as a Chad LaRose rebound bounced off him into the goal.    The Finn was right where he should be on the play, crashing the net.

Montreal would jump back ahead though as Tomas Plekanec beat Ward high glove side on a rush.  Joni Pitkanen had pretty good position on the play, but failed to block the shot and Plekanec made it count.

Later in the period, Jeff Skinner made a nice move into the zone and passed it to Cory Stillman, who scored his first goal since returning as a Hurricane.  Stillman made one of his classic wrist shots, beating Alex Auld off the far post.

With the score tied 3-3, both teams battled evenly throughout the third until the Habs took advantage of their only powerplay chance.  Special teams turned out to be the difference in this game.

The Canes will take Sunday off, then will return to practice on Monday, wondering if their roster will be changed up on trade deadline day.

Quick thoughts and stats:

  • Carolina missed captain Eric Staal in this one, but the team battled hard all game long.  They did not lose for lack of effort. 
  • Jerome Samson continued to shine and had his best game as a Hurricane in front of friends and family.  He started out on the fourth line with Dwyer and Bodie, but then was moved up. He picked up an assist on the Ruutu goal and contributed a team high five shots on goal in just 12:52 of ice time.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Sergei Samsonov and Chad LaRose both finished with a team worse -2.  Samsonov had 9:33 of ice time while LaRose had 12:34. 
  • Cam Ward did not seem to have his best night, although he made several fine saves.  He especially looked a bit out of position on the Plekanec goal and gave too much room on the short(glove) side.  Tripp Tracy made the observation that he was also too far deep in his net.  One can only wonder if he would have been sharper if he hadn't started 22 consecutive games.  He ended up allowing four goals on 27 shots for a .852 SV%.
  • The team outshot and outhit the Habs, 31-27 and 24-16.  Jeff Skinner's three shots were second on the team behind Samson's five.  Erik Cole led Carolina with five hits.
  • Ruutu won 53% of his faceoffs.  The team finished at 47% for the game.
  • Joni Pitkanen had a game high 28:53 of ice time and also had a game high four blocked shots, but he was ineffective on the powerplay on this night. 
  • It was tough not to pick up a point in this one as it seemed the team deserved one.  But they still hold fate in their own hands with three games coming up against Buffalo and another against the Habs at the end of March.  They all become must wins.  

Post game interviews:

Jerome Samson 2 26 11

Brandon Sutter 2 26 11

Jussi Jokinen 2 26 11

Paul Maurice 2 26 11