Story by Bob Fennel. File photo by Hal Goodtree.
Cary-lina, NC – If you missed this game, you missed a great one.
The Canes hosted the Chicago Blackhawks in their only meeting this season on Friday October 28th.
The Blackhawks came into the game leading the Central Division with a 5-1-2 record but fell to 5-2-2 after being shut out 3-0 by the Canes on Cam Ward’s 17th career shutout.
With four of the next five and eight of the next 12 games at the RBC Center, the Canes need to make a move upward in the standings. They did just that with their best overall game of the season by being aggressive between the blue lines and outstanding defense.
Coach Paul Maurice shuffled lines, probably to find a spark to ignite Eric Staal. Staal was paired with speedster Jiri Tlusty and sparkplug Chad LaRose.
Canes Up 1-0 In the First
With a few minutes of up and down hockey, Tim Brent won a faceoff in the Blackhawks’ end. On a double effort on the draw, he made a back pass to Tim Gleason who shot in traffic. While the official scorer said the puck ricocheted off Brent’s skate, unless he was wearing a white sweater, I saw it off a defenseman’s skate. I would have given the goal to Gleason. Actually who cares, as the Canes went up 1-0. After the game Gleason had, he really did deserve that goal.
The highly talented line of “Skins & The Finns”: Jeff Skinner-Jussi Jokinen-Tuomo Ruutu were absolutely a joy to watch. Their constant-moving, crisp-passing and shot selection had the Blackhawks changing defensive pairs to find a way to stop them. By the end of the game, that line drew 3 penalties.
At 14:27 Patrick Kane high-sticked Staal on a faceoff drawing a 4 minute power play as Staal went off for repairs. The Blackhawks are first in the NHL for penalty kills on the road as the Canes failed to score. Shots after 1, Canes 12, Blackhawks 7
Defense In the Second Period
Both teams played excellent hockey in what was turning out to be a great checking game with the Canes owning the neutral zone. At 16:47 Jonathan Toews was called for hooking but didn’t quite agree with the call arguing all the way to the box. The Canes power play was looking good with sharp passes and even a few shots but the man advantage was negated by a Skinner hooking penalty. The Canes were caught flat-footed on a line change allowing a great pass from inside the Blackhawks blue line right to the tape of Toews’ stick. Cam Ward made an unbelievable save on what could have been a game changer.
The Brandon Sutter-Alexei Ponikarovsky-Pat Dwyer line shut down Chicago’s top line of Hossa-Kane-Bolland. On a penalty kill due to a Dwyer interference call, Staal intercepted a point to point pass, skated hard to the goal but was hooked just as he shot resulting in the Canes first penalty shot of the season. Obviously tired, Staal didn’t generate a head of steam but got a good shot off only to be stopped by a nice reaction save by Corey Crawford. Shots after 2: Canes 24, Blackhawks 22.
Both teams came out hustling early in the 3rd period. Sutter took a rare penalty, taking one of the better defensive forwards off the ice. Ward made numerous unbelievable saves against a potent Chicago power play unit. Just as the power play ended, Sutter came out of the box, scooped up the puck, made a mad dash to the goal putting up a laser for a Cane 2-0 lead.
Skinner drew 2 penalties in the period but the powerless power play just couldn’t put the game away.
Late in the game, a play that appeared to evolve in slow motion, Bryan Allen skated up the left wing and had what may have been his first assist ever from behind the goal line to Jiri Tlusty for a tap in, finalizing the score 3-0. Total shots, Canes 33, Chicago 30.
Nice win for the Carolina Hurricanes.