by Kate Shefte
So much for not being able to score. Encouraged by their shootout success against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes continued to display their one-on-one prowess and scored on Tomas Vokoun off four breakaways. Seven different ‘Canes scored, with three goals each in the first and third periods, bringing the final tally to 7-2.
"We were putting a lot of pucks on net but nothing was happening," K-Something said. "But I think tonight will give everyone a little more confidence."
The ‘Canes capitalized on a bunch of terrible Florida mistakes; two of them were unassisted, as they came off pitiable Panther turnovers. The Florida bench, playing in its first game after a two-game stint against Chicago in Finland to open the season, looked as though it didn’t even know what was happening. In the postgame, Paul Maurice insisted the effort given tonight was not what the ‘Canes should get used to seeing from their divisional rivals, and it’s hard to argue.
After a failed power play and a series of ugly turnovers in the ‘Canes’ own end that must have left Ward thinking, “What the…?” Tom K-Something found himself alone right in front of the net with a juicy Bryan McCabe turnover right in front of the net. K-Something…no, in honor of this moment, we shall call him Kostopoulos…batted the puck against Vokoun’s pads several times before finally landing his first goal as a ‘Cane, a short-handed tally.
"It was good pre-video from our coaches," Kostopoulos said of his goal. "They told us to pressure a certain way. I got the turnover and it bounced in."
Three minutes later, Florida coughed up the puck to Tuomo Ruutu at the blue line. With their players pinching in way to far, he skated all the way from blue line to blue line completely unhindered and surprised Vokoun with a shot from well off. From then on out, it was strange if the ‘Canes didn’t score off the rush.
Jussi Jokinen poked home a rebound after Vokoun misplayed a puck behind the net, giving him two goals in two games on probably the only occasion in which he will surpass Eric Staal in goal scoring. Vokoun left the puck for his defenseman but Jokinen zoomed in, grabbed it cleanly and wrapped the puck around the net before Vokoun could get back to the cease.
"Their defenseman misplayed the puck and I think Vokoun was sleeping," Jokinen said. "At 2-0, it's important to see who gets the next goal."
The trend continued. Ray Whitney bucked his cover and skated in alone, firing a wrister past Vokoun from close in.
In the waning minutes of the second period, Ward could not corral a rebound and Florida’s Shawn Matthias made the score 4-1 while Ward was flopped on his stomach, looking for the puck.
The teams traded minute-plus 5-on-3’s on either end of the first period break but neither could convert.
With a minute and a half through gone in the third, Cullen – who had been knocking at the door all night – was finally rewarded. He brought the puck up the boards and sent a long line-drive past Vokoun.
The bullying was not complete. Rod Brind’Amour, who was almost invisible on the ice until the latter stages of the game, surprised Vokoun with another long shot through traffic, bringing the score to 6-1.
Jay Harrison, not to be outdone, scored in the exact same location and from the exact same place 19 seconds later. It was Harrison’s first NHL goal in 24 games with the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.
The Panthers put the tiniest of sour tastes in fans mouths with two minutes left when Michael Frolik picked up a rebound and put it past Ward glove-side before he could react.
Florida can take comfort, at least, in the fact that it is not the worst professional team in the Southeast bearing the Panther emblem at the moment. (What? I'm not the first to point out Carolina's horrendous play and I won't be the last.) The 'Canes improved to 2-2 and will catch the red eye to Tampa Bay in order to take on the Lightning Saturday night.