by Kate Shefte
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH - No dejected one-liners, no sorry statistics. The ‘Canes got almost a complete effort night and downed the Dallas Stars, 5-3, Wednesday for their eighth win of the season. Carolina put on a show for its home crowd again and got its second consecutive hat trick on home ice (the last was Erik Cole's against Vancouver last Saturday) thanks to Tuomo Ruutu’s first career hatter and a three-goal night from the power play.
White rally towels were given out to fans before the game so it looked more like a towel trick than a hatter, but Ruutu will take it.
“The hat trick feels good,” Ruutu said. “I’ve never scored one before and at the same time, I thought we played a great game. We won and now we’re playing some music in the locker room, and that’s fun.”
Jussi Jokinen got the ‘Canes on the board in the waning seconds of a power play. Bryan Rodney sprung him with a long pass and Jokinen took off, unleashing a shot from the left circle that Marty Turco got a chunk of. It skittered past him into the net.
Tuomo Ruutu took his countryman’s lead 1:44 later and followed it up with a stunning goal. He took a cross ice Eric Staal pass and spun around to dodge his defender, then deflected a shot past Turco.
Staal, whose scoring slump has started to gather some attention, took a feed in the crease for his fifth goal of the season. He looked like the franchise player of old with three points on the night. Jokinen got the primary assist on Staal’s goal and Rodney added to his total after being called up from Albany yesterday.
Jussi Jokinen felt so giving – with it almost being Christmas and all – that he decided to set up Dallas’ goal as well. 15 seconds into his hooking penalty, Steve Ott had a wide-open net and cut the lead to two.
Brandon Morrow closed the gap halfway through the second period while Ray Whitney was in the box for the same infraction.
“In the second period we just sort of sat back with the lead,” Cam Ward, who finished with 24 saves in his first win since returning from injury, said. They’ve got too much of an offensive force to be able to do that. The guys did a good job of coming out into the third with a better mindset.”
Ruutu scored a fluky goal to give the ‘Canes a little wiggle room five minutes into the third. All he did was throw the puck at the net and Loui Eriksson’s shin took care of the rest. A sliding Turco fell victim to the friendly fire and the ‘Canes went up 4-2.
Brett Carson earned his first NHL point with an assist.
Carolina looked very strong going down the stretch in the third. Crisp passes, good defense and solid goaltending – all aspects the ‘Canes are hopefully figuring out how to maintain. Mo credited his ability to run four lines despite numerous crippling injuries.
“We were patient this time,” Ruutu said. “We played solid defense and kept our forecheck going. When we’re trying to defend only, they’re going to get those chances.”
But they almost gave up the lead trying to get Ruutu his first NHL hat trick…at least everybody’s hearts are in the right place?
With the net vacated, Whitney hit the brakes tried and get the puck to Ruutu. A sliding Star kept the passing lane blocked and another took the puck away. Somewhere in all the mess, Loui Eriksson scored a goal for his own team this time, his tenth of the season, after a scrum in front of the Carolina net.
Whitney and Ruutu tried again on a two-on-one with six seconds left and got it right. Even though he has had ten two-goal tames, four of which were with the Hurricanes, Ruutu somehow hadn’t gotten a hat trick at the NHL level. He completed his first with an empty netter.
The Carolina Finnish contingent combined for seven points tonight and made up the media’s three stars of the game. With the Hurricanes on the short list to open up their season in Europe next season, Ruutu said he hopes they get the chance to replicate this effort in front of their countrymen next fall.
“That would be special. I hope it’s going to happen,” Ruutu said.