by Kate Shefte
After a tight first period, Carolina took over en route to a 7-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, their best offensive performance on the season. It’s been a long since Carolina’s offense, defense and goaltending were humming together at such an effective pace, but the team was not dumbfounded by its new found success. The ‘Canes chased one goaltender and abused another, vaulting themselves over Florida and into the final playoff spot again.
Jussi Jokinen received an assist in his first game with his new club, Sergei Samsonov had four points and Eric Staal battled through his injury and scored a goal in the process.
Tuomo Ruutu started the concert of boos after Staal drew a penalty early in the first. On the power play, Ruutu benefitted from a deflection in front and received No. 15 of the season. Steven Goertzen scored his first NHL goal five minutes later on Phoenix’s first shot of the game.
Not to be outdone in front of “Coach Great One,” Staal came in at a wide angle later in the first and put a perfectly-placed shot on Ilja Bryzgalov, which soared past the goaltender and just inside the crossbar. Coyotes captain Shane Doan tied it up again on the power play, but that was all she wrote for Phoenix’s offense on Saturday night.
Of course, during a 7-2 rout, fights are bound to break out. Surprisingly, both were started by ‘Canes. Tim Gleason (who deserves one monster assist in the final tally for getting his team back on track) saw what was happening to his team at the end of the first period and tussled with Daniel Carcillo. Gleason walked away with a nosebleed, and when he noticed it, had a Dodgeball-esque “nobody makes me bleed my own blood…nobody!” moment before heading to the locker room. Here's the video. In the lightweight division, Brandon Sutter squared off against Jeff Hoggan after the latter threw a missed punch at Sutter’s head following a hit.
This was interesting. Chad LaRose was razzed by two much bigger Phoenix players in the first period and received a demeaning glove in the face, almost like a schoolyard scene where the fourth grader is bullied around by two middle schoolers. However, Chad exacted payback in a way a fourth grader at recess never could with a breakaway early in the second. LaRose came in very fast and had a good chance, but Bryzgalov stacked his pads and stopped the shot.
Matt Cullen continued his incredible tear with the go-ahead goal, his fourth in five. Cullen took a cross-ice Samsonov pass and converted it with a lightning-quick release, knocking the water bottle off the top of Bryzgalov’s net.
Ruutu’s back-breaking goal with 53 remaining in the second was about 23 percent skill and 77 percent pure, dumb luck. Ruutu had his back to the net as he deflected the puck right on net and into the small space between Bryzgalov’s pad and the crossbar.
Although Melichar turned out to be a bust, Jim Rutherford and Co. can take comfort in the fact that they are 1-for-2 with their European reclamation projects. Anton Babchuk has been a force before and during this road trip, and continued his unexpectedly strong play in this game with 22 minutes of ice time and the primary assist on the Ruutu goal. Babchuk was also a team-high +3.
The Coyotes came out with a new goaltender Mikael Tellqvist, after the second period break in order to inject some life into their team. Patrick Eaves got only his second goal of the season after an impressive personal effort. Eaves took the puck from newcomer Jokinen at center ice and danced in before unloading a wrister on Tellqvist.
Samsonov had the favor returned in the third when Ruutu set him up from the opposite circle. There was nothing Tellqvist could do when Samsonov picked his spot and buried it.
Last but not least, LaRose scored the ‘Canes’ third shorthanded goal of the season, though the game was well past won at that point. After a lengthy stretch of Phoenix 5-on-3 expired, LaRose corrected his mistakes from his earlier breakaway with the ‘Canes’ seventh goal.
Maurice opted to go with Cam Ward in net, even after Leighton's coming-out party against the Sharks two nights ago. If Mo was looking to boost Ward's confidence, his hunch was rewarded: Ward turned away 30 of 32 shots.
After what could have been a devastating loss at Vancouver, Carolina rebounded and finished their road trip 2-1, proving me dead wrong (I said they would win against Vancouver and drop the next two. Oops.) After a short break to regroup (and, in Jokinen’s case, find a couch to crash on) the Hurricanes will play what will easily be one of the most important games on their schedule this Thursday against the Florida Panthers, who are trying to claw their way past Carolina into the 8-seed. The game will start at 7 p.m.