by Kate Shefte
There were many different ways I could have gone with this headline, but if you’d put them all together they would have been longer than the post itself. Zach Boychuk scored his first NHL goal on the winningest goaltender in league history, Ray Whitney and Jussi Jokinen each had a pair of goals, call-up goaltender Justin Peters outdueled Vancouver-bound Martin Brodeur with 24 saves, all four Olympians got spiffy new banners and the Hurricanes won their season-high fifth in a row heading into the two week break.
As good as he was at opening the door to the bench during his various call-ups, 23-year-old Peters is much better between the pipes. He now has two wins in two NHL starts, and he said besting Brodeur was a memorable experience.
“He’s someone I grew up idolizing. He’s the best goaltender in the world,” Peters gushed. “I’ve watched him play a lot and he’s going to represent Canada. I’m Canadian, so I wish him luck in the Olympics.”
The ‘Canes got into some penalty trouble early but were saved by seamless play by the PK. The ‘Canes almost went ahead with an apparent power play goal by Jussi Jokinen was immediately waived off because the play was dead when the puck crossed the line.
2008 first rounder Zach Boychuk scored his first NHL goal, and it was a weird one, with assists from fellow erstwhile River Rats Brandon Sutter and Brett Carson. Boychuk barely got a stick on the puck while it was being batted around by the Devils defense. It got behind Brodeur and while D-men Mark Fraser and Anssi Salmela tried to get it out of harm’s way, both wound up helping the puck get into the back of their own net.
Boychuk was spun around as he got his shot off, but he knew it was his goal and yelled his approval. He told the press happily that he wanted Martin Brodeur to be the goaltender on record for his “first time.”
“Before the game I was saying, ‘I haven’t gotten my first goal yet. I think I’m going to save it for Marty,’” Boychuk said. It’s funny that it worked out that way and I got the monkey off my back.”
Whitney made what will probably be one of his last few games in a ‘Canes uniform a memorable one. He finished off a five-on-three with a quick shot off a cross-ice feed from Eric Staal 4:34 into the second period.
Before they’d even finished announcing his last goal, Whitney picked up a Tim Gleason rebound that rang off the bottom of the post. Whitney went soaring across the crease, batting the puck in before Brodeur could find it.
Whitney almost got his hat trick with a minute remaining in the second, but his shot went wide.
The Devils left Brodeur out to dry again when they left Jussi Jokinen alone with a bit of ice with which to play. With the hot streak he’s on? Biggest mistake a team can make. He hammered a shot into the open net and that was the end of Brodeur’s night.
Yann Denis took over in net and saved all eight shots he faced. Right off a faceoff, Matthew Corrente jumped Tom Kostopolous and beat him convincingly in a fight that lasted less than five seconds.
Staal went one-on-one with Brodeur in the second period and Denis in the third but couldn’t score either time. On the same play, Zach Parise ruined poor Peters’ shutout bid after Corvo did a bang-up job of covering his man…right into his own goaltender.
The Devils appeared to close the gap thanks to more shoddy defensive work (this time, surprise surprise, by the eternal pacifist Joni Pitkanen) when Brian Rolston pressed himself up against Peters and waited for the puck to dribble past him. It did, but a lengthy review showed Rolston kicked it in.
Rolston got it back when he easily roofed the puck during a penalty to Staal with three minutes left in the game.
This gave New Jersey permission to pull Denis late and Jokinen found himself alone with the puck and an open net. Ray Whitney was nowhere in sight so he netted his second of the night and 23rd of the season.
“Everyone’s playing good team defense and has really good back pressure,” Peters said. “Fortunately the team’s been on a roll here as of late.”
Fortunately, unfortunately…to each his own. Fortunately because it shows that this team is not as mind-bogglingly bad as it appeared in the first half and the coaching staff generally knows what its doing. Unfortunately because that top-three draft day consolation prize is going to be in the rear view mirror if the team continues to play this well. But hey, it’s made for some darn entertaining hockey.
Check back periodically for updates on Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Eric Staal and other random musings. For those who will not be partaking in the Olympic merriment, whether it be because you boycott larger ice surfaces or international camaraderie makes you sick to your stomach, have a nice break and see you March 4th.