by Kate Shefte
The game was billed to be a father-son bonding experience for New Jersey head coach Brent Sutter and his son, Carolina forward Brandon, but Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov stole the show and gave the Hurricanes their fourth straight victory. The team is 3-0 in the new year heading into tonight’s match-up in Sunrise, Florida.
Ray Whitney scored a minute and three seconds in to start the ‘Canes off in the right direction and put New Jersey on its heels. Sergei Samsonov scored his 200th career goal – last year, for him, it probably looked as though that would never happen – on the power play during the second period, and it looked as though that would be enough. However, Tuomo Ruutu’s third period goal off a tic-tac-toe play with Eric Staal and Anton Babchuk, turned out to be the game-winner. Ruutu soared through the air, Superman style, and fired the puck past New Jersey goaltender Scott Clemmensen. Babchuk had to move to avoid stepping on him as he slid over the ice, belly-first, and the goal horn sounded.
Perhaps Ruutu felt compelled to polish off his tarnished family name, as his older brother Jarko – a forward with the Ottawa Senators – broke the skin when he bit his opponent’s finger earlier in the night and later incurred a two-game suspension. This is the second time Jarko has been suspended this season. Here’s the video evidence:
New Jersey made things interesting when the elder Sutter pulled Clemmensen with his team down three goals and on the power play – with over seven minutes remaining on the power play. This is almost unheard of in the NHL, but the gamble worked when Paul Martin scored to bring the Devils within two. Patrick Elias scored in the waning seconds, again with an empty net behind him, but the Hurricanes iced the puck twice and ran down the clock.
Empty nets and embarrassing family drama aside, Panthers await the Hurricanes tonight and will put their stretch of good fortune on the line. The Panthers sit in tenth place and have points in their last three games.
The win-three, lose-three hockey the Hurricanes were fumbling with earlier in the season is seemingly in their rear view mirror, and should the team win tonight, it will be its first five-game winning streak since March 5-12 of last year.