Story by Bob Fennel and file photo by Tom Mousseau for CaryCitizen.
Cary-lina, NC – Eric Staal scored his second goal of the game 3:09 in overtime to lead the Carolina Hurricanes past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3 at the RBC Center December 29, 2011. It was the Canes third consecutive victory at home and second in overtime. Coach Kirk Muller made several new line combinations before the game. Staal had size, speed and skill on both wings with Zac Dalpe and Jiri Tlusty.
Sutter Scores a Beauty
Early in the first, Brandon Sutter kept the puck in at the blue line, passed up to Drayson Bowman. Bowman fed Sutter as he was cutting in from the blue line. Sutter skated to the center for a better angle, then wristed a shot in the upper corner for a pretty goal that rewarded smart play by both Sutter and Bowman. The defense held their ground as the Canes had 2 penalties in the first. Toronto has a powerful power play but were only able to muster off 2 shots on goalie Cam Ward. The Canes had one power play in the period and just couldn’t seem to pull it together. Rumor has it Jeff Skinner is doing light skating which is the second step to getting back with the team, the first being to just feel better, after the concussion. Skinner and Joni Pitkanen are really missed on the power play with their stick handling capabilities and being strong on their feet. Shots after 1: Canes 5, Leafs 6
The Leafs started out strong in the second period. Nazem Kadri gathered the puck in the corner, used the net as a screen allowing him to do a wrap around shot to the long side of Cam Ward. No question that caught everyone off guard as Ward stops those 99 times out of 100. Both teams had two penalties in the second, with Tlusty’s being a double minor for high sticking. The Canes were only able to get off one shot on goal while Toronto got off 4 shots. Both Ward and Reimer were sharp thwarting off every shot. The Canes defense played an excellent period in both man coverage and toughness while also showing restraint. More than once it appeared some fourth liners on the Leafs were trying to get a Cane in a fight to take them off the ice. Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen seem to know just how far they can go before a penalty is called. Justin Faulk seems to get better every game. He’s a great skater and handles his stick extremely well. Jay Harrison is just plain solid and has the wing span of a 747. Shots after 2: Canes 15, Leafs 15
Well Worth the Price of Admission
Both teams wanted the win in regulation and the Leafs came out gunning. Nikolai Kulemin picked up the puck in his own end, passed back to Cody Franson for a set play. Franson passed to Mikhail Grabovski who brought the puck into the Canes end. Grabovski passed to Darryl Boyce for a quick shot, Ward made a good save but the rebound came out in front with former Leaf Alexei Ponikarvosky failing to cover Kulemin crashing the net for a tip in. A few minutes later, All Star Phil Kessel took the puck along the boards up to his blue line then passed to Joffrey Lupul who somehow tipped the puck passed Ward. The Canes didn’t fold, as Dalpe snared the puck along the boards and gave Staal a lead pass. Staal raced up ice, got possession of the puck and laid the puck down just as he wristed a shot along the ice to the long side of Reimer. He pumped his arm so hard in celebration, even the ref ducked. Two minutes later, Staal put the puck in front of the net. Tlusty was hacking and whacking at the puck not allowing Reimer to grab it. Dalpe came in and made an unbelievable play by lifting the puck with his back hand as he was 4’ behind the goal line into the top shelf of the goal to tie the game 3-3. Shots after 3: Canes 31, Leafs 24
Sutter the Hero, Staal Scores Again
Brandon Sutter had another fantastic overall game and made a play in overtime that will never make the scorecard or highlights but was a game saver. With the Leafs on an odd man rush in overtime, Sutter raced back for support. Sutter tipped a pass meant for Tim Connolly, then went to the corner for the puck. His tenacity and strength to get the puck forced Connolly to trip Sutter giving the Canes a 4-3 man advantage. With the power play going 0-for in its previous 17 attempts, the Canes had good puck movement. Jamie McBain had the puck down low, passed it up to Faulk on the point who made a quick pass to Staal. Staal had his stick ready for the hard one timer that no goalie would have been able to save, giving the Canes and the very loud fans something to cheer about.
Let’s hope the success can continue at the RBC for the Canes into 2012. Happy New Year!