By Brian LeBlanc
NCSportsTalk.com - Puck Drops
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Not much time to get a preview (actually, none, as a matter of fact), so let's get right into the action...
:45 1st: Didn't take long for the first good save by All-Star Henrik Lundqvist. Jussi Jokinen had the puck on his stick just outside the crease, and Lundqvist was out of position thanks to a rebound, but Jokinen's shot was somehow saved by Dan Girardi right on the goal line in the only spot Girardi's stick could have possibly swept it away. Bad luck for the Canes, who have controlled play early after an icing call just a few seconds into the game.
5:39 1st: Canes lead 1-0; LaRose 10 (Skinner, Ruutu) Well, that was a bizarre play to give the Canes the lead. A shot from the top of the far circle by Jeff Skinner was stopped by Lundqvist, who kicked out a rebound to Chad LaRose in the low slot. LaRose's rebound chance just barely trickled through Lundqvist's pads and looked to be headed into the net until Sean Avery swept in to save the day by swiping the puck off the goal line (yes, again). Unfortunately for Avery and the Rangers, the sweep off the goal line banked off Lundqvist and right back into the net, giving the Canes the lead.
13:20 1st: To say this game has been wide open is somewhat of an understatement. Cam Ward has been busy stopping three breakaways in the first 13 minutes, the latest to Mats Zuccarello. He's been sharp, but his defensemen have helped him out considerably by deflecting two of the breakaway shots over the net and out of the rink.
14:43 1st: Canes go up 2-0; Jokinen 12 (Corvo, Ruutu) (pp) Continuing the shoot-at-everything mantra that distinguished Tuesday's game against Boston, a Corvo slapper from the point on the first power play of the night was perfectly placed for Jussi Jokinen to just barely graze the puck and change its direction just enough to put it past Lundqvist and give the Canes a 2-0 lead.
16:33 1st: It's not obvious watching them play, because they've put plenty of pressure on Ward, but the Rangers are missing some key cogs, including leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky in tonight's game. That said, give them credit: if not for some sharp saves by Ward and (especially) some solid defensive play in front of the Canes' net, this game could easily be tied right now.
End 1st: A solid period for the Canes, especially given the fact that the Rangers played last night and they needed to take advantage of what could be some heavy legs on the other bench. The Rangers have been up to the task, but so has Cam Ward, and the Canes are in great position after twenty minutes. Shots are 16-11 Carolina.
1:10 2nd: The Rangers come out with some jump, and nearly get on the board as Matt Gilroy fires a shot that barely goes over the crossbar. Great start for New York, which badly needs to get on the board early lest they risk running out of gas the way the Canes did in the third period on Tuesday night.
5:41 2nd: Canes lead 3-0; Sutter (Samsonov) And just like that, the Rangers are in a three-goal hole. Brandon Sutter continued the breakaway parade to the north-end goal with a perfect pass from Sergei Samsonov that he deked and just barely backhanded past Lundqvist with maybe an inch of space between Lundqvist's right skate and the post. Perfectly placed, and it snaps a 16-game goal-less streak for Sutter.
10:55 2nd: The Canes nearly made it 4-0 on a 2-on-0 way down low. Too low, as Sergei Samsonov was too close to the goal line to have a good angle to convert Erik Cole's pass. Could easily be a four-goal lead now.
14:45 2nd: Two fights in nine seconds, first a split decision between Brandon Prust and Jay Harrison, then a clear decision for Kris Newbury over Ryan Carter. Says here the Rangers are a bit upset with how this game has gone.
15:43 2nd: Cam Ward robs Chad Kolarik from point-blank. Not going to say it, but I'll just say that Ward has been playing quite well.
End 2nd: A ridiculous shift that lasted about a minute in the Rangers zone didn't result in anything, but it did earn a standing ovation from the crowd as the Ruutu line managed to knock the sticks out from two Rangers players deep in the defensive zone. If the Rangers wanted to change the momentum with the two fights, it doesn't look like it worked too well. Shots are 28-25 Hurricanes overall, and the Rangers led 14-12 in the period.
6:00 3rd: A couple of huge saves, one at each end, keeps it 3-0. First Ward stoned Wojtek Wolski from close range while the Rangers were on their second power play of the night, then a few seconds later Erik Cole nearly hit Erik Staal on a shorthanded 2-on-1 that just barely handcuffed Staal enough that he couldn't get a clean shot off. The Rangers, like they did in the second period, have come out flying to start the 3rd, but Ward has shut them down.
11:40 3rd: Rangers break the shutout, Canes lead 3-1; Prust 6 (Kolarik, McDonagh) Admit it - you had the seven-letter word in your head too. Ward had the look of a guy going for a goose-egg tonight, but Brandon Prust put an end to hopes of a shutout by knuckling a puck over Ward's shoulder on a rebound. Not much Ward could have done there, except covered the rebound, but in his defense the guy has made 35 saves tonight.
15:51 3rd: Canes back up by 3; Skinner 17 (LaRose) Not much to say here other than Chad LaRose is having a great night. He made a great play coming out of the neutral zone, going behind the net and centering to Jeff Skinner at the top of the crease to restore their three-goal lead.
End 3rd: The performance resembled Tuesday's in how the Canes came out ready to play, and fortunately for the Canes the result was completely different. Cam Ward and Paul Maurice both talked about how they knew that another strong effort like Tuesday's, coming against a team with a ton of injuries and facing the second half of a back-to-back, would likely lead to good things, and indeed it did.
Interestingly, the Canes are now 12-2 when Jeff Skinner scores a goal, and have at least a point in every game (6-0-1) when Brandon Sutter scores.
Late in the game, Erik Cole got fed up with Sean Avery after a two-handed slash to the back of Cole's leg, and they earned misconduct penalties. Chad LaRose also mouthed off at Avery a few times, but when asked about it he politely deferred, saying "that's hockey". I guess that's one way to put it.
Click for audio from Brandon Sutter, Chad LaRose and Cam Ward. Paul Maurice's press conference is attached.
The Canes head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Saturday night, then they're back here for a Monday tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Live Blog has other obligations on Monday night, so we'll miss the start but we'll be here for the finish and we'll take you home with locker room audio. Hope you'll join us.