When Tuomo Ruutu tipped in Jay Harrison's long point-shot to give the Canes a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators, there were loud cheers and a collective sigh of relief throughout the RBC Center as Carolina picked up their first overtime win of the season. Not only that but it was also their first goal when playing four-on-four, which is an area where the Canes needed to improve on. Another area the Canes needed to improve on was outchancing their opponent and with the Senators playing their second game of the back-to-back, they had the perfect opportunity to do that tonight.
The final chance count ended up being 17-11 in favor of the Canes and 13-9 at even strength, so they accomplished their goal there. Despite the lopsided numbers, this game was actually a lot closer on the scoreboard thanks to Craig Anderson. While he isn't having a good year, Anderson was a wall tonight and stole a point for his team. He is usually lights out against the Hurricanes and that trend continued tonight as the Canes peppered him with 19 shots in the first period and he was able to turn away all but one, which was a deflection off a defenseman's skate in front. Speaking of which, the oddest thing about this game was that only one of the three goals came on scoring chances. The Canes first goal came from a sharp angle and the Senators goal was a shot from long range that deflected off of Patrick Dwyer's stick. Had Ruutu not tipped in the game winner, all three goals would not have been scoring chances in this game. I can't remember if that's ever happened in a game I have tracked. Either way, it was great to finally get an OT win and send the team home for Christmas on a winning note.
Scoring chances & more after the jump
Ottawa Senators vs. Carolina Hurricanes 12/23/11 Scoring Chances
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Ottawa's are in white
You can tell which team was the one who played last night and had to travel on top of that. Ottawa did not have their legs at all in the first two periods and it took a great effort by Anderson to keep the game tied. It was actually disappointing that the Canes could not take the lead in the first two periods but they created 14 scoring chances and outshot the Senators 29-14. They did all they could to get something past Anderson but it just wasn't happening and he deserves a ton of credit for his performance.
The third period has been an area of concern for Carolina all season and it didn't help that they were going up against one of the better third period teams in the league when it comes to goal differential. The Canes third period struggles continued as they only created two chances and took a penalty early in the period which could have really caused trouble had it not been for a couple of goalposts. We all know what happened in overtime so I won't explain that but it was good to see the Canes not let a winnable game slip out of their hands.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Tuomo Ruutu, Drayson Bowman, Jussi Jokinen +3
Worst EV Forward: Riley Nash & Anthony Stewart -2
Best EV Defenseman: Tim Gleason +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison -1
The top-six was really clicking as everyone there came out positive in scoring chances and I'm on the verge of saying that Ruutu is playing his best hockey of the season. He's been doing what he does best and that's going to the front of the net to create chances and creating more room for his linemates. What's keeping me from saying that he is playing the best hockey of the season is that he started 10 of his shifts in the offensive zone, so he definitely had the territorial advantage. The line that received no such advantage was Bowman-Staal-LaRose as they were put in a much more defensive role and still managed to produce offensively. They didn't score but those three alone accounted for 13 shots on goal and had six scoring chances. It was really nice to see the entire top-six producing like they were in this game.
Brandon Sutter, Patrick Dwyer and Jiri Tlusty were also very good last night as they were matched up against Jason Spezza's line and held them to only one total scoring chance. Tlusty provided the offense while the other two managed to shut down the opponent's big line. I kind of like this system even though I don't know how long it will last. Those two ended up doing most of their damage against Harrison and Faulk, which was an interesting matchup choice on Muller's part as Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain were put up against Kyle Turris' line instead. You can tell they enjoyed the easier matchup here.
The fourth line received credit for the first goal (which didn't count as a chance since it was bad angle shot that went off the defenseman) but they had a pretty mediocre/poor game overall. The first goal was mostly due to the hard work by the first line before hand where the Canes were able to get a complete line change in and the fourth unit was able to take advantage of a tired Ottawa group.
Allen and Spacek started most of their shifts in the defensive zone, which was a nice change compared to recent games and both turned out good performances. They weren't exactly matched up with anyone in particular though which shows that Allen's still getting protected a little bit.
Head-to-Head at five-on-five
Muller had some interesting match-up choices but a lot of them worked out for the better as he put the Staal line up against Sergei Gonchar and rookie Jered Cowen, who were taken out back against them. Neil, Smith & Daugavins also fared poorly against the Staal line as Muller saw a weakness in that unit too. With Chris Phillips being regulated to third pairing duty (for whatever reason) and Filip Kuba being used with offensive-stud Erik Karlsson, the Sens lack a true shutdown pair and Muller was able to expose that by sending his top unit out against Gonchar & Cowen. Karlsson & Kuba also did not have that good of a game in their own zone as the Canes bottom six were able to outchance them at even strength.
Sutter & Dwyer didn't set the world on fire but they did win all of their matchups and kept the Sens first line at bay for most of the game, and that's what really matters with these two. Gleason/McBain also played well when they were matched up against them which makes the decision to use Faulk/Harrison as the shutdown pair even more perplexing. Allen/Spacek did well against just about everyone except for the Sens fourth line.
Another matchup Muller used to his advantage was getting the second unit out against Phillips/Carkner who are both having terrible seasons and they didn't look any better this game as the Canes second line took advantage of them big time. Carolina's defense won their key matchups while the Senators didn't and that's what played a factor into the Sens getting outchanced as bad as they did. Karlsson/Kuba log a ton of minutes and are solid at creating offense but it doesn't mean much if they aren't going to be trusted against tough competition. Sounds like a familar issue, doesn't it?
Great performance by the Canes overall and one of their top performances this season.