A couple of the Hurricanes players had today's game against the Minnesota Wild circled on their calendars because it was the first time that they would be playing in their home state at the NHL level. Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain both grew up playing in Minnesota and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul was the building where Faulk's University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs won their first NCAA national championship a little under a year ago. Both of them had an emotional return to the State of Hockey but the guy who stole the show today was Colorado-native Drayson Bowman, who had a two-goal, three point performance to lead the Hurricanes to a 5-3 victory over the Wild.
This win did not come easy, though as Carolina had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit and really made goaltender Brian Boucher earn his first win of the season late in the game. Neither team had much of a territorial advantage and things could have gone either way but it looked like the Wild had a win locked up when they took a 3-1 lead. This was a team that was 18-4-2 when leading after the second period and Carolina wasn't exactly producing a lot of offense but if there's one thing Minnesota hockey has taught us this weekend, it's that a two-goal lead isn't safe in hockey and the Hurricanes showed that today. They got a late second period goal on a lucky bounce and then came out strong in the third with two more goals to take the lead. Despite not recording a scoring chance in the last ten minutes, the Hurricanes held onto the lead and took home a win.
A very nice win to build off of as we head into the final stages of this road trip.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Things were much less lopsided than the 34-26 shot count indicated as the Wild were getting roughly the same amount of scoring chances as Carolina. I don't know if the scorer at the Xcel Energy Center overcounts shots for the away team or something, but this game was actually very close territorially. Neither team could establish much of an overall advantage but there were a few periods where one team had a brief advantage and couldn't generate many chances. This happened to the Wild a lot in the first period because they had a big territorial advantage over Carolina for most of that period but couldn't create much offense. Most of their attempts were either blocked, broken up or missed the net. Carolina may have doubled them up in shots but hardly any of them were of high quality.
The second period was a different story with both teams opening things up more and there being a lot more chances at both ends. Carolina played much better at even strength but ended up trailing 3-2 at the end because their best chances were either stopped by Minnesota goalie Matt Hackett or they went off the post (I'm pretty sure this happened to Staal twice). Minnesota also got a powerplay and took ful advantage of it with a goal from Erik Christensen. The Wild looked like they had control of this game on the scoreboard but the pace of play was very even and all Carolina needed was a little sustained pressure and a lucky bounce to get themselves back in the game and they got just that on Drayson Bowman's second goal of the game. Brandon Sutter made a nice play in the offensive zone and sent a puck towards the net which ricocheted off Bowman's skate and into the net. That's all it took to make this a one-goal game and Carolina continued to build off this in the third period.
Carolina got a little bit of help aroud six minutes into the period with Tim Gleason drawing a tripping penalty to negate a Minnesota powerplay and have the two teams play four-on-four. This type of play has not been the Hurricanes' strength this season but it's important to remember that they have players who can take advantage of the open ice, one of those being Brandon Sutter who received a perfect stretch pass from Drayson Bowman and roofed a breakaway chance to tie the game. Carolina would then go to the powerplay shortly after and Tim Brent scored his 11th goal of the season on a long shot from the point. Things then shifted heavily in Carolina's favor as they recorded three consecutive scoring chances giving them a 6-0 advantage over the Wild in the third period. The Wild would not go down without a fight though as they would not allow one Carolina chance for the last 10 minutes of the game and tested Brian Boucher a few times but he shut down all of their chances and earned his first win of the season.
It was a nice comeback win for Carolina and I thought they were the better of the two teams tonight but at the same time, I can't say that special teams and penalties didn't play a role in deciding the outcome. The four-on-four and powerplay goals both played a big role in Carolina winning. Still, a nice road win for the team and a good effort overall.
Best EV Forward: Eric Staal +7
Worst EV Forward: Jussi Jokinen -5
Best EV Defenseman: Jamie McBain +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Bryan Allen -3
Bowman had the three-point game but I would not say that he was Carolina's best forward today. That man would be Eric Staal who was an absolute force in the offensive zone for most of the game. This game reminded me of how he played for most of November/December where he was creating chances and leading most of the team's offensive attacks but didn't get any puck luck. He hit the goal post twice today and completely missed an open net in the second period. He did get an assist on Brent's goal but he could have easily had a multi-point game. Chad LaRose also had a superb game and was credited with ten shots on goal. He also could have had a multi goal night but I'm sure he is fine with recording the empty netter to salt away the victory for Carolina.
The lines were jumbled around tonight after the first period and I think it is safe to say that LaRose earned his promotion to the top line. Both he and Jiri Tlusty played very well while Tuomo Ruutu struggled immensley. I don't know what it is, but he has not played well since coming back from his injury and couldn't seem to get anything going after he was put on a line with Jussi Jokinen. My guess is that this is just rink-rust because he missed a month of action and looks a tad sluggish when playing at even strength. As for Jokinen's play, let's just hope that we see a return of the "Skinns & Finns" line once Jeff Skinner is done serving his suspension because Ruutu clearly needs a spark and playing with Staal wasn't giving him that.
An interesting note on Bowman's game is that he recorded points on every Carolina scoring chance he was on ice for. He looked great tonight despite not being an offensive force but Carolina doesn't need him to be the catalyst of the offense. The way he played with Sutter & Dwyer on the third line was fine and exactly what I want to see from him. As for Sutter, I thought he played better than the scoring chance numbers indicate. He defended well, made a few great plays in the offensive zone and recorded his first career Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Nice game for him.
Jaroslav Spacek was knocked out of the game with a lower body injury which meant that Jamie McBain had to play some extra minutes and he had one of his strongest games in recent memory. He still started four more of his shifts in the offensive zone but he did an excellent job at playing his role tonight even when playing the tougher minutes. Gleason also had one of his better games in recent memory but it's important to remember that he wasn't playing against much top competition today. The Wild's top line consisted of Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak & Nick Johnson. Heatley is a threat and both Brodziak & Johnson scored today but I would not consider either "top level opponents." It is also interesting that Gleason beat out his competition while Allen was torched. They played together for most of the game so I'm not sure what caused a huge difference.
Justin Faulk once again led the team in ice time, logging over 25 minutes and he played well in the defensive zone. He and Jay Harrison had only five shot attempts and neither of them got on goal and they both surrendered five scoring chances in their own end. I don't think either played poorly but they've had better games this season. If they can keep playing solid defense like they did for most of this game the I will be satisfied
What do I have to say about the fourth line? Well...nothing really. Tim Brent had a powerplay goal while losing the even strength battle again and Anthony Stewart played a decent game.
Head-to-head at five-on-five
- The Wild's first line produced two goals but they were getting hammered at even strength in terms of scoring chances. Staal & LaRose did some big time damage against them.
- Bryan Allen failed to win any of his matchups at even strength. Very rough game for him and he's really starting to hurt his chances of being re-signed.
- Faulk/Harrison's main matchup was apparently the Brodziak line, as they played the most minutes against them according to Vic Ferrari's head-to-head report. They won that matchup but didn't play well against any other line.
- Marco Scandella had a rough game.
Wild Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Darroll Powe +3
Worst EV Forward: Dany Heatley -7
Best EV Defeseman: Steve Kampfer +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Marco Scandella & Clayton Stoner -4
|CAR||1||18:58||Bowman - GOAL||5||6||16||21||33||59||4||15||21||25||31||77||5v5|
|MIN||1||12:52||Brodziak - GOAL||12||15||19||28||33||44||10||21||25||31||38||77||5v5|
|MIN||2||7:27||Johnson - GOAL||5||6||13||16||33||36||6||15||21||25||31||46||5v5|
|MIN||2||4:36||Christensen - GOAL||28||33||36||39||44||6||21||22||26||31||38||4v5|
|CAR||2||2:46||Bowman - GOAL||13||16||21||28||33||44||10||17||26||31||38||39||5v5|
|CAR||3||12:44||Sutter - GOAL||4||6||16||21||33||6||10||15||31||46||4v4|
|CAR||3||11:56||Brent 0 GOAL||12||19||28||33||37||59||4||7||22||31||38||5v4|