Brandon Sutter (2 goals) and Joe Corvo (a goal and an assist) led the way both offensively and defensively on Monday night as the Canes won a wild 6-4 game over Toronto at the RBC Center. The contest also featured a game misconduct penalty by Tim Gleason, a controversial disallowed goal by Jeff Skinner and a two-goal comeback by the visitors early in the third period.
“It was probably exciting if you didn’t have a huge stake in the game,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “If you weren’t betting a lot or got paid on it, it was probably a great game to watch.”
“It was definitely not the way we drew it up,” said Skinner, who ended up scoring the game winner in the third period. “It was kind of a weird game that way. It was frustrating at times, but at the same time I think we stuck with it, and at the end of the day if you find a way to win it always feels good.”
In addition to their offensive efforts, Sutter, who has followed a 16-game goal drought with three in his last three games, and Corvo, who now has points in four straight contests, were instrumental in a 1:26 two-man advantage for Toronto in the second period. Along with Jay Harrison, they limited Toronto’s chances and kept the score 2-1 heading into the third.
The score wouldn’t stay that low for long, as the teams combined for seven goals in a third period that saw Carolina lose a 3-1 lead on a shorthanded goal by Tim Brent, his second in a span of 1:11, before taking the lead for good on Skinner’s goal that made it 5-4. Erik Cole would add an empty netter in the closing minute.
“We pretty much exchanged chances back and forth all night,” said Sutter, who scored both of his goals in the third, the first on a diving stab at a rebound and the second on a rush up the left wing. “We had a couple of big penalty kills that were probably the difference tonight, and it’s a big win for us.”
While the goals were harder to come by early on, the drama was readily available. At the buzzer to end the first period with the teams tied 1-1 on goals from Corvo and Tomas Kaberle, Gleason and Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin became involved in an altercation along the Carolina bench. Both players threw punches with their gloves on, but Gleason removed his first and delivered a devastating blow to Kulemin’s face that left him bloodied. Kulemin would not return to the game, with Gleason’s ejection announced as play resumed in the second.
“I didn’t agree with it,” said Maurice of the call. “Timmy had taken two or three punches to the face area, and that’s usually an invitation for a guy like that. Clearly the guy that he hit doesn’t fight a lot and maybe he felt that was OK, but they were eyeballing each other and face to face at the time.
Carolina had to play the rest of the game with five defensemen, with others standing up to the task.
“Obviously Tim is a huge part of our game and he’s a defensive pillar out there for us, so everybody had to pick up the slack,” said Harrison. “It’s good to know that we can do it, but in saying that we’d like to get him back because he’s a rock back there for us.”
Another surprising call came in the second period when Skinner’s wraparound chance as he was falling to the ice appeared to bank off Toronto goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s pads and across the goal line just inside the near post. Although zoomed-in television replays may have caught a glimpse of the puck inside the net, league officials confirmed the on-ice call of no goal after an extremely lengthy review process.
“I was going to ask if we could go and do some laps and warm up a little bit [after the eventual call],” said Maurice. “That’s the longest by far that I’ve ever sat through.”
Skinner ended up earning redemption on a third-period power play, as Corvo’s shot was blocked by a Toronto player only to rebound right to Skinner for a one-time slap shot that left no doubt. The goal was Skinner’s 18th of the season, matching his age.
“Other than the occasional ribbing about his age or how much money he saves on razors, he’s just a good player on our team now,” said Maurice. “Age is no longer a factor and it really wasn’t right from the start because he was just a special player.”
Jamie McBain scored the Hurricanes’ other goal, a long slap shot from the blue line that placed perfectly in the top left corner of the net behind Giguere, who may have been partially screened by Mike Komisarek. That goal, the only tally of the second, made the score 2-1.
The Hurricanes now have just one game remaining before the All-Star break – a Wednesday road contest against the New York Islanders. With a win and a little luck on their side, the Canes, who sit just one point back of the Atlanta Thrashers with two games in hand, have a chance to improve upon the ninth-place position they’ve held for what seems like an eternity.
“We go to Long Island and it’s a big game for us,” said Sutter. “If we get the win there, depending on how Atlanta does in the next couple of days we could be sitting in that eighth spot.”
NOTES: The win was the 1,000th in Hurricanes’ franchise history dating back to 1979 … During his four-game points streak (1g, 4a), 4 of Corvo’s 5 points have come on the power play … Carolina has won 11 of the last 14 meetings with Toronto … Chad LaRose’s first-period fight with Clarke MacArthur was the third of his career … Pitkanen’s first-period assist gave him 99 points in a Hurricanes uniform … Carolina is 13-1-1 when McBain scores a goal.