by Mike Potter
There’s still a lot of history between these clubs, who have met four times in early rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Hurricanes winning the last three series.
The Devils aren’t what they used to be, though, as they come into the game six points behind the 14th-place New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference.
The Hurricanes, who are on a two-game winning streak, have a winning record but trail the Montreal Canadiens by six points for the last presumptive playoff spot in the East.
Carolina will play without defenseman Joni Pitkanen (upper body) and forward Jussi Jokinen (lower body) for the second straight game, while forward Jiri Tlusty (upper body) will sit for his seventh straight.
Carolina scores the first four goals and never lets up, never again letting the Devils closer than two back in a 6-3 victory.
The Hurricanes take control in a hurry.
Just 1:48 in, Tuomo Ruutu redirects a Joe Corvo blast past Martin Brodeur for a power-play goal.
Carolina doubles the lead at even strength at 4:28 when Jeff Skinner follows a Tim Gleason shot with a backhand roofer behind Brodeur’s left shoulder. Chad LaRose collects the secondary helper.
And at 8:00 it goes to 3-0, as Sergei Samsonov picks up a loose puck off Corvo’s shot and slides it in off the left doorstep with Jamie McBain on the secondary. That ends the night for Brodeur and brings on Johan Hedberg.
Zac Dalpe makes it 4-0 on the power play at 13:42, scoring his first NHL goal on assists from Ruutu and McBain.
But the Devils fight back. Rod Pelley scores on a spin move from the right circle with Matthew Corrente and Anssi Salmela on the helpers at 16:52.
New Jersey then cuts it to 4-2 just 49 seconds into the second, as Travis Zajac beats Cam Ward through traffic with Patrik Elias and Anton Volchenkov helping.
The Hurricanes get something back at 8:42, as Samsonov taps one in from the left doorstep on a 5-on-3 power play with Ruutu and Eric Staal on the assists. It’s the 254th career assist for Staal, who passes Andrew Cassels for the No. 4 spot on the franchise career charts.
The Devils make it more interesting again at 2:36 of the third, as Elias connects from atop the left circle with Corrente on the sole assist.
Skinner ends any doubt at 17:34, roofing the puck on LaRose’s pass from behind the net with Ruutu on the secondary.
Ruutu gets the first star with his stellar four-point (1G, 3A) game, while the fresh-faced rookie Skinner runs his goal total to eight with the two markers and Samsonov’s two goals give him 230 for his career.
Ward saves 25 to improve to 17-11-3 on the season.
They said it …
Carolina coach Paul Maurice: “A lot of what we did in the Ottawa game (a 4-0 road win on Wednesday) we brought home in this one. We got good results and we’ve got to build on that. I got away from those things — they’re hard things to do and they’re not a lot of fun, staying under the puck and grinding and all those other good things. It’s a work in progress, but everyone can do it consistently. I’m happy with the way we came out.”
New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire: “When the game started we got a couple of questionable penalties, they get two goals, they get the momentum and they’re on their heels. That’s how we started, it’s that simple. And then we tried to come back, tried to come back, but we got more penalties which we did deserve at that time. That’s not how you should play the game. I don’t think it’s a step back, it’s a bad start. The guys worked all the way to the end.”
Ruutu: “We found our way to play and we played like that. We kept it simple, and we scored a lot of goals. The Devils had a tough start, or it could have been a totally different game. That’s the way it is. I’ve been on teams that lost a lot, and it’s not fun. I’m trying hard to enjoy this, because I don’t want to be on a losing team.”
Skinner: “The mindset is always keep doing what you’ve been doing, what’s gotten you to that point. We started to sit back a little bit with the four-goal lead, that got us on our back feet and that started dictating the game. You never want to get into that situation. The goal every game is to get off to a good start, and we did that by having short shifts and getting the puck in deeper. I think if you look at our first three goals they were all rebounds, and that’s just a credit to the guys working hard down low, getting the pucks back to the point and finding those rebounds.”
What does it all mean?
That the Hurricanes might be getting hot at the right time, and that the Devils are probably already playing for the future.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Dalpe’s first NHL goal, which turns out to be the game-winner.
Hurricanes lead 1-0.
Carolina: Won 3.
New Jersey: Lost 1.
Hurricanes vs. Florida, Monday, 7 p.m.
New Jersey vs. Minnesota, Tuesday, 7 p.m.