by Kate Shefte
Defenseman Anton Babchuk tallied his first of the season and Matt Cullen salvaged the extra point with his fourth, but once more the Hurricanes made it past the extra period and the shifty moves of their high-scoring forwards didn’t translate into shootout success. After managing to kill off an entire Montreal Canadiens power play in overtime after Eric Staal went off for slashing, the ‘Canes limped into the shootout, where they haven’t had much success in the past two years. Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen, Peter Laviolette’s go-to guys, failed to score, and Staal took Erik Cole’s place, (Laviolette will occasionally throw Rod Brind’Amour in there, when he’s feeling particularly frisky) but his wrister was stopped by Montreal’s Carey Price. Saku Koivu’s backhand made it past Cam Ward, and Whitney’s subsequent attempt missed the net.
Although we’ve all seen Staal get creative with the puck on-one-one with goalies on breakaways, he still hasn’t found a move that consistently works in the shootouts. The All-Star center is now two for 10 since the shootout was instated – a 20% conversion rate.
The Hurricanes have made the Bell Centre their “home away from home” in recent years; they haven’t lost there in regulation in nearly five years. However, when the game went to the shootout, not even good Canadian karma could help them out. Although the ‘Canes practice the shootout during almost every practice and have plenty of players that are more than capable of scoring, something isn’t clicking. Ward is now 2-8 in career shootouts.
Ward was given a break tonight, at least in comparison to his 57-save outing on Saturday against the Islanders. He faced twenty-five shots, and for the second time in as many games, one of those was a penalty shot. Ward received some illegal help in the crease when Dennis Seidenberg closed his hand on the puck. Tim Gleason committed the same offense on Saturday, and Ward was able to stop Doug Weight’s attempt. However, Alex Tanguay managed to shove the puck over Ward’s pad and make the score 2-1.
In his NHL/Hurricanes debut, call-up Dwight Helminen logged 5:14 of ice time, and was plus-1 with one shot. There is still no word on Sutter’s condition, but defenseman Joni Pitkanen is out for at least a month after undergoing surgery on torn meniscus in his knee. It’s a good thing Rutherford didn’t execute that trade after all – the Hurricanes need all the defensemen they can get right now with Kaberle and Pitkanen out for long stretches of time. Babchuk and Josef Melichar, healthy scratches earlier in the season, are now logging some serious minutes. Babchuk played just over 15 and Melichar saw eight.
The Hurricanes will finish off their six-game road swing in St. Louis on Thursday at 8:30.