Believe it, folks. Not the beating the Lightning part – the Hurricanes have done that four times this season. But in the win, Chad LaRose scored that elusive first shorthanded goal to tie the score at one.
The ‘Canes benefitted from a few calls early in the game. Martin St. Louis deflected a shot into the net just after a ‘Canes power play for too many men on the ice expired, but after a brief review, his stick was determined to have been above the crossbar.
After Anton Babchuk and Tuomo Ruutu combined for one ugly giveaway a few feet in front of the net, Mark Recchi got the goal right back for the Lightning.
LaRose took a heads-up pass from Matt Cullen at the boards and deflected it past Mike Smith for Carolina’s first shorthanded goal since March 28th, when Trevor Letowski scored with his team a man down in a 7-1 win against Atlanta.
“He was the first person I played with when I first got called up, so we’re familiar with each other,” LaRose said of Cullen. “We work well together.”
The CanesVision crew complied a touching tribute to N.C. State’s women’s basketball coach, Kay Yow, who died on January 24. The video montage showed several highlights of her career and featured Kay Yow’s ceremonial puck drop before a Carolina-Vancouver game last year. Yow, dressed all in pink, embraced captain Rod Brind’Amour before being escorted off the ice.
Cullen scored a goal of his own on a wraparound with a minute and a half left in the second period. Cullen came around the back of the net with a Tampa Bay player hot on his trail and deflected the puck off Smith for his eleventh of the season.
Brandon Sutter was involved in a minor scuffle after he checked a Tampa Bay player through the door and onto his own bench. Both sides erupted because players have been badly injured after falling into benches and hitting open doors, but if you ask this writer, Martin St. Louis should have received a two-minute penalty for “ineffective gate keeping.” The Lightning forward sat directly behind the door, watching the play develop, but didn’t close it. If St. Louis had been paying attention, it would have just been another check. Ryan Bayda and Steve Downie received matching penalties in the skirmish that ensued, and Ryan Malone tied the game just after the power play expired.
Cam Ward made an incredible save to keep the score that way, stretching out on a 2-on-1 to stop a Lightning player lurking at the back door.
'Canes fans were momentarily horrified when Matt Smaby hit Matt Cullen from behind in Tampa Bay’s end. No penalty was called and Cullen immediately went to the dressing room, but on the same play, Sergei Samsonov’s scoring attempt skittered across the crease right onto the waiting stick of Eric Staal. Staal tapped it home for his twenty-first with only a minute and a half left in the game. Smith was pulled, but the game ended on that note.
“Timmy (Gleason) jumped in on the back end, which opened things up,” Staal said. “Samsonov came in on the second wave. I think he fanned on the shot, but he faked everyone out and got the goalie down. He finally got a shot off and it hit both posts, and I was there to pick up the garbage.”
Maurice said after the game that Matt Cullen’s head is fine, and he will probably not be joining Scott Walker and Niclas Wallin in the press box.
The ‘Canes have now won each of their four match-ups against the Lightning by one goal, including two in regulation and one each in overtime and in the shootout. It is also worth mentioning that although the Lightning have supposedly been an epic flop this season, they have scored two more goals than the Hurricanes and have only allowed four more. Despite this, they are nine points behind the ‘Canes in the standings. Huh.
And don’t look now, but Florida is creeping up in the standings. The Panthers have won two games in a row against top-ranked teams, beating the Flyers 3-2 two nights ago and Montreal 5-1 tonight. The Panthers, usually the joke of the Southeast, are currently sitting at No. 8 in the final playoff spot.