By Brian LeBlanc
NCSportsTalk.com - Puck Drops
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Dating to December 28, when Jim Rutherford made an intermission appearance in the Hurricanes locker room in Toronto to put a boot in the Canes' collective backsides, the Canes have rattled off a streak of seven straight games with at least a point. Tonight, they look to make it eight against a team they don't see all that often, although there's a familiar face on the other bench tonight.
Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos were traded to the Calgary Flames on November 17 for Ian White and Brett Sutter, and tonight is Babchuk's and White's first time facing their former teams. Kostopoulos, for his part, is in the building but not in uniform thanks to a six-game suspension he received for breaking the jaw of Detroit's Brad Stuart on Friday.
Jussi Jokinen returns to the Carolina lineup tonight, as Jon Matsumoto was sent back to Charlotte earlier today and the Canes have shuffled their lines accordingly. After sitting out Sunday's game against Atlanta, Cam Ward is back in net tonight, facing Miikka Kiprusoff, who has never lost to the Hurricanes in his career; he is 4-0 with two shutouts in his admittedly limited action against Carolina.
The Canes look to make it eight straight with a point while establishing their first three-game winning streak of 2011 tonight, and we're minutes away from puck drop...
2:15 1st: The Flames have carried play for just about every second so far. A pair of open-net scoring chances, one each for Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan, were thwarted by some fortunate bounces as both went just wide of Cam Ward, but the Flames certainly look to be the more energetic team in the early going.
4:13 1st: Flames lead 1-0; Bouwmeester 4 (Iginla, Jokinen) Just like clockwork, a big save at one end results in a score at the other end. It's one of those hockey truisms that always seems to hold true, and it did here to put the Flames on the board. Kiprusoff robbed Zach Boychuk on a 2-on-1, kicking a puck out that he had no business stopping, and ten seconds later a centering pass from Jarome Iginla went off a Carolina skate in the slot and right to Jay Bouwmeester, who roofed a shot high over Ward's stick to put the Flames on the board first.
7:30 1st: Erik Cole comes cruising through the slot and Adam Pardy knocks him down, earning a tripping penalty. I mention this only in case there are some Pardy-related puns later in the live blog.
11:46 1st: Canes tie it at 1; Ruutu 11 (LaRose, Skinner) A minute after a second power play expired, the Canes were the beneficiary of some great down-low cycling by Jeff Skinner, who found Chad LaRose alone at the top of the far circle. LaRose let a shot go that was cleanly tipped by Tuomo Ruutu for his sixth point in the last three games.
13:06 1st: Flames back up 2-1; Iginla 18 (Tanguay, Jokinen) Might as well get used to seeing "Jokinen" in the scoring of Flames goals, given his past history against Carolina This time, he was a bit player in a great give-and-go between Alex Tanguay along the near boards and Jarome Iginla in the low slot. Iginla's first shot was stopped cleanly by Cam Ward, but the rebound came right back to Iginla and he didn't miss again, putting the Flames back up by one.
16:29 1st: Canes tie it again, this time at 2; Jokinen (Sutter) Welcome back to the lineup, Jussi. He did just about everything on that goal, including a sweet bank pass to Brandon Sutter through the neutral zone to get it behind the Flames defense, then a centering pass from Sutter back to Jokinen did the rest as Jokinen tied it with a nice backhand tip as he avoided Adam Pardy's stick. That's right, it's Pardy time to celebrate Jokinen's return.
End 1st: We're tied after 1, as the Canes really came on late after being badly outplayed to start the game. Shots were 11-6 Flames, with most of that margin coming in the first eight minutes or so of the period.
1:27 2nd: You know how you're having a bad night with the man advantage? You're being outshot 3-0 while on the power play, and you just iced the puck. Ouch.
2:16 2nd: Canes lead 3-2; Cole 12 (Jokinen, Samsonov) For all the trouble the Canes are having while up a man, they're doing just fine immediately after their power plays end. This time, it was a sweet centering pass from Jokinen behind the net to Cole in front, as he battled to establish position and tipped the puck home to give the Canes their first lead of the night.
5:37 2nd: Canes now up 4-2; Staal 21 (White, Ward) Miikka Kiprusoff's night is over after a weird bounce, but you can't deny that he's been a bit shaky with four goals on eight shots. Eric Staal's seemingly harmless shot bounced off the stick of Flames defenseman Mark Giordano and changed directions just enough to get the puck through Kiprusoff's five-hole. The Flames inserted Henrik Karlsson for his first career action against Carolina.
6:53 2nd: Here's an odd stat: the Canes are 0-4 and generally rather inept on the power play tonight, yet three of their four goals have come within 1:06 of the expiration of a man advantage, including the last two which were scored eight and five seconds, respectively, after the end of a power play.
14:50 2nd: Canes lead 5-2; Jokinen 8 (Sutter, Gleason) When it's your night, it's your night, and it's most certainly Jussi Jokinen's night. His third point of the night has given the Canes a three goal lead on his second goal of the night, a double-deflection off a Gleason shot that was tipped in front by both Brandon Sutter and finally deflected upstairs by Jokinen over Karlsson's glove. The assists were given on the ice to Gleason and Dwyer, but it looked to me like Sutter got wood on it too.
16:48 2nd: Flames back to 5-3; Hagman 9 (unassisted) And just like that, it's a game again. Niklas Hagman was the beneficiary of a ruthless forecheck by Matt Stajan who knocked down Tuomo Ruutu and set the table for Hagman to wire a wrister high over Ward's glove to pull the Flames back within two.
End 2nd: Well, that was interesting. The Canes outshot the Flames 11-8 in the period, but the Flames were really energized after Hagman's goal and had the Canes back on their heels right up to the end of the period. The end of the period came at the perfect time to stem the Flames' tide.
1:31 3rd: Flames pull to one at 5-4; Glencross 10 (Hagman, Regehr) The momentum from the end of the second period has indeed carried over to the third, and Curtis Glencross (really?) has his fourth goal in as many career games against Carolina to make it a one-goal game. Nice play by Glencross to wire a wrister from 20 feet right between Ward's glove and blocker, but really, the Canes have had no interest in playing defense tonight and it's coming back to bite them.
3:03 3rd: Ian White's skate kept the game from being tied as Olli Jokinen had a wide open net and it was only a redirection by White that deflected the puck up to bounce off the crossbar instead of into the net. Paul Maurice called timeout to remind his troops that the game still has 17 minutes to go, in slightly saltier language than I just used.
4:52 3rd: After taking a harmless shot on Karlsson, Jeff Skinner was met behind the net by the glove of Cory Sarich, and to his credit Skinner stood up for himself and gave Sarich a facewash back. Chad LaRose, meanwhile, came flying in from the blue line and clobbered Sarich with a right, earning himself a roughing penalty to match Sarich's. In one man's opinion, Sarich deserved a double minor, but that's why I'm a lowly reporter.
7:39 3rd: Flames tie it at 5; Bourque 14 (Morrison, Jackman) And if you didn't see this coming, you've been watching a different game. A broken play in front of the net ended up with the puck on Rene Bourque's stick at the top of the crease, and he backhanded it home to tie the game.
7:53 3rd: A few seconds later, Jeff Skinner leveled Curtis Glencross on what looked to the world to be a clean hit yet somehow earned a boarding penalty. Skinner earned a round of applause when his penalty was announced. That pretty much says it all.
15:45 3rd: There hasn't been a stoppage in nearly seven minutes. Unbelievable action, and both teams have had good chances.
17:33 3rd: Ward gets a lucky whistle after he and the official thought he covered the puck a split second before it popped out to the near side. Huge break for the Canes.
End 3rd: Off to OT, again. Canes now have points in eight straight games, a season high.
2:48 OT: Rene Bourque is called for slashing Cole's stick out of his hands, the Flames' third slashing penalty tonight. Canes have a 4-on-3.
End OT: Off to a shootout as the Canes couldn't convert and then (fittingly) after the power play ended Karlsson robbed Jokinen from point-blank. Shots were 32-30 Flames.
Postgame: In a bit of poetic justice, Jeff Skinner scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Canes to a 6-5 win in a wild game that left both coaches with a good bit less hair than they started the game with. According to Paul Maurice, it's the type of game "where both coaches need showers after it's done". But as Maurice then went on to say, the Canes learned a lot about their young star tonight, after Skinner's frustrations at repeated non-calls boiled over and he took the boarding penalty on Glencross. Maurice admitted that he wouldn't have even minded a major penalty there given how the night had gone.
No audio tonight owing to some technical difficulties. It was one of those nights even for equipment.
The Canes head to Buffalo on Thursday for a matchup with the Sabres, then they're right back here Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town, no doubt with plenty of natural-forces jokes in the house. Hope you'll join us for the sideshow.