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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ward stifles Ottawa as Canes take second straight

Posted by on Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 10:51 PM

TV/ FS-CR—I wonder, at what point did the Ottawa Senators realize they weren't going to score on Cam Ward on Wednesday night?

Cam Ward shut out the Ottawa Senators 4-0 Wednesday night.
Was it late in the first period, when Sergei Gonchar flashed into the edge of the crease to slap a cross-ice pass on net, and Ward scissored it away with the dull thump of a leg pad? Or was it early in the second, when Mike Fisher one-timed a centering feed from Nick Foligno from behind the net, and Ward deleted the puck from the air with his glove?

If not then, then certainly it was midway through the third, when Filip Kuba stung Peter Regin's saucer pass through the crease as Ward was in motion across the goalmouth, and Ward batted the puck calmly to the corner. All these were among the 37 shots that Ward turned away with one body part or another en route to a 4-0 win in Canada's capital city.

Zach Boychuk scored his first two goals of the season in the first period, and Erik Cole and Patrick Dwyer added unassisted tallies, as the Hurricanes played a disciplined game in all areas of the ice. After sloppy play in a win the previous night in Toronto, captain Eric Staal and general manager Jim Rutherford reprimanded the team for taking bad penalties and handling the puck poorly in the neutral zone. The lectures worked, as the Canes pulled ahead of the Senators in the conference standings despite missing two regulars from their lineup.

With Joni Pitkanen (upper body) and Jussi Jokinen (lower body) on the shelf, Brian Rodney and Jon Matsumoto made the Canes even younger and faster than usual. The defense seemed purposeful and decisive without Pitkanen, who has seemed to take shifts — if not periods — off recently, despite logging top ice time on the team. I am thinking of programming a key command on my laptop to insert the sentence "Pitkanen unnecessarily ices puck" into a word processing document.

Boychuk bolted around the ice in the first frame, notching his first goal on a wraparound shot after he and Dwyer each battled Jesse Winchester for the puck in the corner. Not four minutes later, on a power play, he roofed a Tuomo Ruutu feed over Brian Elliott's shoulder to make it 2-0.

The second period brought none of the lapses that have plagued Carolina in recent games. Taking no penalties to Ottawa's two, the Canes extended their lead with Erik Cole's eighth goal with just under five minutes remaining. After Staal foiled a rush by tying up Daniel Alfredsson's stick and deflecting the puck up ice with his skate, Cole charged up ice and slung a slow shot timed to coincide with Sergei Samsonov's arrival. Elliott deflected the puck into a teammate's skate and into the goal.

The Senators came on hard in the third, putting 18 shots on net, but none into it. Just after killing an early power play, Dwyer scored for the second straight game, wresting the puck from an exhausted Gonchar just inside his own blue line and beating Elliott not five minutes in. Gonchar had manned the point for the full two minutes of Ottawa's man advantage.

Ward did the rest. "I like to think that I was cutting down my angles and that’s all I gave them. It is always a good sign when you see the puck hitting the post and going out the other side," he said. Coach Paul Maurice agreed: "Yeah, he’s not bad. You know, we’ll keep him."

Don't look now, but the Canes' stopper is climbing the league stat charts. With the third-best save percentage, he might find himself playing the the All-Star game in Raleigh at the end of January.

The Canes continue their tour of teams below them in the standings, hosting New Jersey on New Year's Day and Florida on January 3.

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