by Kate Shefte
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH - Two struggling stars and a pair of role players tallied in Carolina’s 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Sunday afternoon. The ‘Canes had to grind it out for the win in front of hundreds of fans with ties to the armed forces on Military Appreciation Night.
The theme was even more appropriate because the game also served as the battle of the M*A*S*H units. If there was ever an NHL team with a vague knowledge of what the ‘Canes are going through, it’s the Senators. Though they currently sit in the top seven and could easily see a postseason, they have been absolutely slammed with injuries to top scorers. Chris Kelly was the only one who found a way around the zen Cam Ward tonight, but not for a lack of trying.
Andrew Alberts had an ugly giveaway a few minutes in right in front of his own net as his stick snapped when he tried to clear the zone. Ward had to flash out his glove in order to deny it.
All Aaron Ward seems to relied upon for these days is taking undisciplined penalties at inopportune times. He took one with a half minute left in the first and gave Ottawa a decent stretch of five-on-three, which they somehow couldn’t use.
The Sens did strike first, however, seven minutes into the second period. Chris Kelly didn’t have a good angle on Cam Ward but he somehow found a seam and roofed it to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead.
After a TV time-out, Brandon Sutter turned around and set up Tom Kostopoulos with a beauty off a two-on-one. Sutter maneuvered around his defender and put it right ahead of Kostopoulos, who tapped his fifth of the season easily past Pascal Leclair and went barreling into the boards.
Rod Brind’Amour followed up with a goal of his own, a one-timed blast from the blue line, with just under two minutes remaining in the middle period. The captain, who has had a lackluster 2009 campaign so far, has doubled his goal scoring in the first three games of the second half and is on a three-game scoring streak. Patrick Dwyer put the puck on his stick and he fired it through traffic past Leclair, who was screened by a moving Niclas Wallin.
Ward had to be extra sharp in the early third in order to keep his team in it. He made a handful of scrambling saves look easy, including one wrap-around attempt. Ward finished with 31 saves on 32 shots.
I could try and feign attendance for the rest of the game, but honestly, I had to duck out around the five minute mark of the third period. After that, though, Carolina cracked the scoring wide open. Defenseman Brett Carson got the first of his NHL career off a Ray Whitney feed from around the same spot Brind’Amour scored from and Eric Staal, who – as has been well documented – has had a really rough week, added an emotional cherry on top with his eighth of the season.
Does anyone else feel like trotting out the youngsters and giving them NHL experience was the best thing that could have happened this season? If the Hurricanes were going to faceplant – hard – at least give the farm kids a chance to play in the major leagues, if not for the future of the franchise than for their own personal benefit. All these injuries have been a bitter blessing.
Carolina is back in action Tuesday against the second-to-last Maple Leafs, where it will put its modest two game winning streak on the line. Then it’s on to Detroit before landing back at home for a game against the Thrashers Saturday. In the meantime, some of those lists we promised. They’re actually happening, just watch.