Whoever sharpens skates at the United Center needs to be replaced IMMEEEEEEEEDIATELY.
The Hurricanes capitalized on two Blackhawk spinouts, including a heartbreaking Tuomo Ruutu goal with 25 seconds left (see below). Five and a half minutes into the first period, Sergei Samsonov made a little spin move and Brian Campbell tried to keep up but lost an edge. Meanwhile in front of the net, Colin Fraser and Matt Walker decided to cover nobody and Samsonov found newest AARP member Rod Brind’Amour wide open on the door step.
The ‘Hawks battled back to tie the game at 1 with just under three minutes left in the second after Carolina thought it would be a good idea to send four guys screaming at Cristobal Huet. Huet made the save, Duncan Keith got the loose puck to Kris Versteeg, and he had a 2-on-1 from his own blue line. Versteeg looked at Dave Bolland the whole time down, froze Hurricane goalie Cam Ward, and put it right under his arm. Carolina had all three forwards and one defenseman below the hashmarks when Versteeg got the puck at the blue line.
It was a big goal because the ‘Hawks were missing golden opportunities to get on the board. Patrick Kane had been denied on two semi-breakways. Troy Brouwer, somehow, fanned on a wide open net TWICE off a scramble in front of the net. He’s inventing new ways not to score with each passing game.
After the aforementioned Brouwer took a tripping penalty two and a half minutes into the third period, Ruutu gave it right back when he clipped Brent Seabrook in the face on the ensuing face-off and went to the box for four minutes. When the 4-on-4 ended, Patrick Kane picked up a loose puck behind the Hurricanes net. He took it strong to the front, slid it across to Brouwer, and even he couldn’t miss that shot.
With just over a minute left and the ‘Hawks nursing a 2-1 lead, Jonathan Toews took a lazy penalty at center ice. Carolina pulled their goalie with the face-off in the ‘Hawks end. After about thirty seconds of moving the puck around, the ‘Hawks Dave Bolland got control, tried to make a sharp turn to get the puck on his forehand, and fire it down the ice. Emphasis on tried there. Bolland ended up blowing an edge, Carolina’s Ray Whitney got control and found Ruutu alone in the slot who blasted it into the net to take the game into overtime.
When the NHL first came up with a 4-on-4 overtime concept a few years ago, this was the type of action they expected. From the drop of the puck, there were glorious chances at both ends. Kane was denied on another semi-breakway. Just a minute earlier, he hit the crossbar on a rebound attempt. Carolina’s Eric Staal was brushbacked on a wraparound attempt and then later, on a breakaway as time expired.
In the shootout, both goalies had problems making any kind of save. Toews and Kane both scored for the ‘Hawks while Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen tallied for the ‘Canes. The third shooters, Bolland and Matt Cullen, were denied, although Bolland’s backhand hit the post. Versteeg came up with a beauty for the third ‘Hawks shootout goal. He skated right down and roofed it right over Ward’s glove. After Huet denied Sergei Samsonov on an awkward attempt, the ‘Hawks finally snapped their two game losing streak that threatened to destroy all that is right with the world.
Other observations from tonight that I couldn’t find room for in the recap:
–Much belated kudos goes to Ben Eager. I’ve been meaning to bring this up recently but it seems Eager has finally figured out what kind of player he needs to be to become a successful NHL player. He’s not an enforcer. Anyone who has seen him fight knows that. He’s a big agitator who will fly around the ice for thirty to forty seconds checking anything that moves, and occasionally score a goal that will remind you why he was a first round draft pick a few years ago.
–Is there any doubt that Edzo has seen more than a fair share of Hurricane games this season? During the shootout, he predicted the first four shooters moves’ right on the nose. I could have guessed what Toews and Kane did, but anyone who can tell me what kind of move Jussi Jokinen is going to do, deserves a tip of the cap.
–The ‘Hawks penalty kill finally is starting to kill off penalties at a normal rate again. Save for the final minute disaster caused by Bolland falling, Carolina didn’t have that many quality opportunities with the man advantage. The power play goal they did give up was their first since giving one up to Los Angeles on March 1st.
—Tuomo Ruutu had a bizarre game. He negated two Carolina power plays. In the second, he was called for the ever popular ‘diving’ penalty and in the third period, he got a high sticking double minor. Then with just under a minute left, he got absolutely destroyed by Brent Seabrook, dusted himself off, and scored the game tying goal. In the shoot-out, Ruutu made one subtle move, and picked out a corner on Huet. Like I said, weird.
–I don’t watch nearly as many Hurricane games as Edzo apparently does, but I still can’t figure out why ‘Canes Head Coach Paul Maurice didn’t tap Eric Staal’s shoulder in the shootout. Obviously, he had to write his first three shooters on a card before it started, but with his team needing a goal to play another round, Maurice chose Samsonov. Really?!!? Staal gets 26 minutes of ice-time during the game, has a team-high six shots on net, and with his team facing a loss, he picked a spineless Russian.
–Finally, we may have seen a preview of the post-Pahlsson fourth line (assuming Sharp and Havlat are healthy) yesterday evening when Q played Dustin Byfuglien with Eager and Fraser, and gave only two third period shifts to Adam Burish, who’s been invisible since mid-February. Big Buff has been at his best this year when he’s been physical, and his speed and size fit in very nicely along side Eager. More importantly, his hands and offensive prowess actually become an asset when playing against other team’s fourth lines. No, it’s not worth $3 million this season, but it may turn into something really positive. Stay tuned.