by Kate Shefte
The Carolina Hurricanes have made a total turnaround from the team that couldn’t score and couldn’t win big games, shutting out the New York Rangers – a team also fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot – and winning their fourth in a row. Joe Corvo scored the game-winner in the second period and it held up after Cam Ward shut the door.
As on Friday, the ‘Canes attempted to take advantage of another tired team. New York was on the second end of a back-to-back after beating the Boston Bruins 4-3 last night. However, this team was hungrier, tougher, and, well, Avery-er than the teams Carolina blew out by a combined score of 15-4 on Friday and Saturday and gave the Hurricanes a run for their money. The game was much tighter than the score would suggest.
Corvo said his teammates are more confident than they have been all season thanks to the last four games.
“It gave us confidence; it might have even given us a little bit of swagger,” Corvo said. “I think guys are looking forward to the games as being fun.”
Perhaps it was the fact that he is generally despised by everyone in the NHL. Instead, maybe it was that exhibition of Avery’s poor sportsmanship when he broke a bone in Andrew Ladd’s face while the former ‘Cane forward had his arms pinned down by the refs. For whatever reason, the RBC Center crowd decided early on that they were not in support of Avery’s comeback kid status and booed him almost every time he touched the puck.
Avery tried to get under the skin of Ward several times, but the ‘Canes’ netminder was in the zone (no pun intended) tonight. He turned away 28 shots and picked up his fifth shutout of the season, a new career high.
The ‘Canes received two lucky breaks early after a Rangers goal was disallowed three minutes in. After conferring, the refs determined that the puck was nudged to the goalscorer via hand pass. Later on in the first period, Carolina received three consecutive power plays.
On Scott Walker bobblehead night, the rough and tumble ‘Canes player was nowhere to be found. Walker was scratched from the line-up after a hit from Robyn Regehr shook him up on Friday. Walker has only played in 36 of 68 games so far due to various injuries.
There is another possibility for Walker’s absence, and that is he was so embarrassed about the look of his bobblehead that he took a night off. It was widely theorized that Eric Staal’s bobblehead, which was [image-1]the first one distributed, looked a bit like a blow-up doll. Walker’s likeness was captured, but the pose they used made it look as though he was on the can. Obviously, it was meant to look as though he was bending over at the face-off circle, but…you be the judge.
The ‘Canes didn’t have much luck on the power play in the first period, and the game remained tied. Tuomo Ruutu had a great chance close in and Staal almost buried the rebound, but New York back-up goaltender Stephen Valiquette found and smothered it. The ‘Canes’ saddest power play attempt was the third, after Eric’s little brother Marc Staal received two for slashing. Carolina chased down the puck the entire time and didn’t record a single shot on net.
Carolina’s Patrick Eaves was the next to draw the ire of the crowd. Literally seconds after he escaped the box after taking Carolina’s first penalty of the night, Eaves held up another Rangers’ player and put New York back in the power play. Cam Ward and the penalty killers stood strong and killed off both.
Ward wowed the crowd after he stopped Blair Betts point-blank after a turnover in front of the net.
Avery received a holding penalty during a delayed whistle against Carolina, and grinned widely at the refs and the crowd as he took a seat. The ‘Canes converted on the four-on-four when Corvo pinched in and pounced on a rebound. It was Corvo’s 13th of the season and Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney received the assists. Avery later negated another Ranger power play after he interfered with Corvo’s progress.
“I just had a weird feeling that there would be something laying there,” Corvo said of his goal. “It wasn’t a tight two-on-one, it was spread out, so I had a feeling that might happen.”
After a lengthy goal-scoring drought that saw him go from Christmas to nearly St. Patrick’s day without a tally, Rod Brind’Amour scored his second in two games, an insurance marker early in the third on a power play. Brind’Amour was there between the circles to accept Whitney’s pass and fired it home.
Staal received another one-on-one breakaway, but the magic just wasn’t there for the two Ericks tonight. Cole received the primary assist on Tuomo Ruutu’s empty netter with 25 seconds remaining, but Staal was left off the scoresheet for the first time in six games. The NHL’s first star of the week was coming off a franchise record-tying four goal and 6 point effort against Tampa Bay on Saturday and had 12 points in his last give games.
Though the scorching line of Cole, Staal and Ruutu didn’t find the net tonight, the defense got it done with Corvo scoring the game-winner everyone else making plays that kept it that way. Pitkanen put his stick down to stop a third man breaking in and an easy Ranger goal in the third period. Though never the fastest nor the most agile of Carolina’s defenders, Babchuk got back in time and tied up his man legally on a one-on-one breakout later in the third.
It seems almost silly to talk about where the ‘Canes are in the playoff standings with the bottom three spots fluctuating so frequently; the last time the ‘Canes made it into the top eight, they were out again in less than nine hours. But with tonight’s win, Carolina sits in fifth place and the Rangers were bumped to ninth. Oh, what a difference a day makes.