Lord, this game had just about everything. I have to admit, 6 minutes in the Hurricanes already had a 2-0 lead, the Avalanche looked absolutely dreadful and I figured this was going to be a blowout. Instead, it turned into one of the most entertaining games of the year.
As seen in the first paragraph, the Hurricanes dominated early. But with about 5 to go in the first, the Avs started seeing some life. The new line of Ryan O'Reilly, Wojtek Wolksi and Chris Stewart started things off with Wolski giving a nice feed to Radar in front of Cam Ward. Just 30 seconds later, Paul Stastny deked the pants off of every Carolina player (including Ward) and fired a slick backhander into a wide open net (Ryan Wilson, who has played very well, had the assist for his first career point).
The 2nd period had some unfortunate drama: Tuomo Ruuttu slamming Darcy Tucker into the boards from behind. Tucker went down hard and didn't move. It was a scary moment for sure and he was taken out of the rink on a stretcher. He was moving as they carried him out and hopefully he will be okay.
Ruuttu was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the play and probably was the difference in the game. Milan Hejduk (who was a monster in this game) scored on the ensuing powerplay and Wojtek Wolski (not quite a monster, but a very good game) scored just after it expired for the Avs' 4th straight goal to make it 4-2. Matt Cullen scored on a swift wraparound attempt later in the period to close the gap to 4-3. If the game ended after 40, it would have been a wild one.
Just 3 minutes into the 3rd, Craig Anderson made the save of the game when he stopped Ray Whitney on a penalty shot attempt. Crazy game. In my preview today, I mentioned that the Hurricanes take a TON of penalties and tonight was no exception. It really cost them. Not long after the Whitney attempt, the Hurricanes took two penalties to put the Avalanche on a 5 on 3, which Paul Stastny promptly converted on. (The Hurricane color guy RAVED about the Avalanche powerplay all night long - how foreign a concept is that???). That was the eventual game winner. Whitney scored later to make it 5-4, but that was it. Not that it wasn't exhilerating. Wolski had a big breakaway that was stuffed. Ward made a great save on Matt Hendricks. Hendricks made a timely clear with 4 minutes left in the game and the 'Canes late-game comeback attempt was thwarted by Eric Staal taking a stupid retaliatory slashing penalty on David Jones. It was a wild game and quite fun to watch.
A LOT of Avalanche players had good games tonight. Stastny. Hejduk. Wolski. Stewart (5 shots). Jones. O'Reilly. Cumiskey. I could go on (heck, the 1st period turnaround probably started when David Koci created the Avs' first scoring chance as Radar's goal came soon after that). The negatives? Obviously, Tucker's injury (again, we're sending good vibes your way, Darcy). And that pesky attendance - under 14,000 again for the 2nd time this year. When do we start worrying about this?
Quick note on the lines before signing off. Matt Duchene finally got a linemate as Milan Hejduk dropped down and Marek Svatos was bumped up to Stastny's line. I liked it. Loved it, actually. I think tonight's line combos may have been the best of the season (with apologies to Cody McLeod).
- Jones - Stastny - Svatos
- Tucker - Duchene - Hejduk
- Wolski - O'Reilly - Stewart
- Koci - Galiardi - Hendricks