With both teams having played last night – Toronto mounted an improbable comeback against the New York Rangers and Carolina fell to Edmonton, 3-1 – this game featured a battle of the backup goaltenders. Curtis Joseph was in for Toronto and Michael Leighton manned the net for Carolina.
Peter Laviolette reportedly took his team to task this morning for its third period effort against Edmonton. Instead of coming out like a lion, Carolina barely mewed in the first period, managing one shot on goal in the first 15 minutes. In (miraculously) the only goal of the first period, the ‘Canes defense allowed Ian White to stand in front of Michael Leighton for a good few seconds and pick his shot. White was playing in his first game of the season after serving as a healthy scratch for Toronto’s first 11 games of the season.
“Everyone was playing on their heels, not really skating and playing a little bit cautious,” Ray Whitney said. “At times this year, our problem has been that we’re thinking before we’re actually moving.”
Sergei Samsonov and the Hurricanes’ power play finally got on the board in the second period. Samsonov finally ended his dry streak with the secondary assist on Joe Corvo’s power play goal and received thunderous applause.
Mikhail Grabovski scored twice to put the Leafs ahead 3-1. The second was the only truly weak goal of the night; the Hurricanes couldn’t recover the puck, and left Leighton standing upright and far out of position.
That’s when the ‘Canes came alive. Whitney and Dwight Helminen scored 1:17 apart late in the second, and Tuomo Ruutu scored 2:13 later. Helminen, called up from Albany last Monday, tallied his first NHL goal and assist in his second game in the big leagues.
“I think I’ve shown that I can compete at this level and make some plays,” Helminen said of his efforts.
Matt Cullen is out with an unspecified leg injury and didn’t dress, and Patrick Eaves fell ill during the second period and didn’t return. Sergei Samsonov and Rod Brind’Amour gave ‘Canes fans a scare early in the third period; both limped off the ice after their first shift. Samsonov went back to the dressing room but returned soon afterwards.
Whitney said these injuries cannot be a factor in the locker room.
“We had 300-some games missed last year,” Whitney said. “We saw Helminen and Dwyer come up and play very well today…we have to take the people that we have and try and figure out how we’re going to win.”
Chad LaRose converts! LaRose, who started out on the second line with Brind’Amour and Whitney, poked home a rebound 1:15 into the third period, which turned out to be the game-winner. Atta boy, Chad; he now has three on the season. Niklas Hagman scored after a sloppy clearing attempt, and after a stressful final three minutes, Eric Staal added an empty-netter. The Hurricanes will travel to Toronto on Tuesday for a re-match of tonight’s game.
Here’s a video from Toronto-based YouTube personality SteveDangle on tonight’s game. His view his heavily biased towards the Leafs, but often insightful and always amusing. (Plus, he agrees with me about the third jerseys!)
(And yes, Leighton has now won four games total as a Hurricane. His bad.)