|ATL||0||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|CAR||0||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
Babchuk's Backhander Gives Hurricanes Overtime Win
RALEIGH, N.C. (October 25, 2006) - Carolina's defensive corps has been riddled with injury after injury in the first month of the season. When one player comes back, another two seem to go down.
The two ended up playing more than solid defense in a 5-4 overtime win against the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers. Babchuk scored the game-winner 1:11 into overtime with a nifty backhand move after getting a corner feed from a hard-working Justin Williams, while Hutchinson added a goal and an assist in Carolina's three-goal first period that opened the eyes of coach Peter Laviolette.
"Obviously, you would like to have a full lineup, you would like to have everybody healthy and from there you have to make decisions, which is good - it puts pressure on people to be successful," said Laviolette. "But we don't have that, we haven't had it and we're not going to have it for awhile, so you can't cry about that. Whoever does get an opportunity they have to make the most of it."
Hutchinson played just 3:28 on Long Island over the weekend, but logged a season-high 14 minutes and 45 seconds, while Babchuk played more than 21 minutes Wednesday night in Raleigh.
"We're going to be begging for pucks now from the forwards," joked Hutchinson, who had to battle through a frustrating, injury-filled season in 2005-06. "With the 'D' corps that we have, when everybody is healthy, when you get your chance, you've got to go for it.
"There are eight good defensemen here and two have to sit out," he said. "You have to find out what you do best and build off of that."
What the 6-foot-5 Babchuk does best is play an offensive-minded game on defense. That's why general manager Jim Rutherford traded for the 22-year-old Russian last season and he's fit into Laviolette's aggressive system quite nicely. No better than in overtime Wednesday, when he raced down the slot as Williams battled in the corner after an Atlanta turnover.
A wide-open Babchuk was ready and knew what to do with the puck when the pass came.
"I read the play and you always play defense first, but if you have open ice you just try to jump in the hole and make the play," he said.
Babchuk didn't have much room to maneuver, but he faked Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen with a forehand and then went to his backhand and slid the puck into the open net. It was quite a nifty goal for a defenseman.
"It was a nice little move and a good finish," said Eric Staal, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals.
Laviolette was equally impressed.
"You really only have two options at that point," the coach said. "You can get it and shoot, which most people would have done - especially a defenseman who is jumping into the play - or you bring it in. He made a super move. Once he brings the puck to the outside it's tough to poke check because his reach is so long.
"That took poise," Laviolette added. "It was overtime and he gets it coming in with speed against a goaltender where there is not a lot of room, there is not a lot of decision-making time and he made the right decision."
Babchuk and Hutchinson were good, but Carolina wouldn't have come away with two points without Cam Ward's awesome performance in net. He stopped 20 shots in the second period alone and ended up with 32 saves for the game.
"Cam has been solid since the start of training camp," Laviolette said. "For me, he's been sharp from day one. He came here sharp and has remained sharp."
Carolina went into the second period up 3-1 after dominating the opening 20 minutes with goals by Eric Staal, Scott Walker and Hutchinson. Staal and Walker each scored their fifth of the season to tie Williams for the team lead. The two-goal margin didn't last despite the best efforts of Ward, who made a point-blank glove robbery snatch against Steve Rucchin and a breakaway stone against Eric Boulton.
"I guess those ones are the most fun," Ward said of his spectacular saves.
Carolina also blew a 4-3 third-period lead after Ryan Bayda scored before going into OT for the win.
Atlanta, off to one of the hottest starts in the NHL, has lost just twice this season - both times to Carolina in dramatic fashion. Less than two weeks ago, Ray Whitney scored with less than one second left to beat the Thrashers in Atlanta 4-3.
The win Wednesday night got the Hurricanes off to a good start in their first of four straight games against Southeast Division opponents Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
"We can take what has been a tough months for a lot of different reasons and turn it into a positive," Laviolette said. "There is a possibility to get 16 points out there and 16 points is a pretty good month. We've got to fight for that."
David Droschak is the former sports editor for the North Carolina bureaus of the Associated Press, the largest news-gathering organization in the world. In 2003, Droschak was named the North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year. The only writer in the Triangle to have covered the Carolina Hurricanes every season since the organization moved to North Carolina, he currently is a principal in the Raleigh-based public relations firm Hughes-Droschak Communications.
|Eric Boulton (1) ASST: Brad Larsen (2), Jean-Pierre Vigier (1)|
1 - 0 ATL
|Eric Staal (5) ASST: Scott Walker (4), Mike Commodore (4)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Scott Walker (5) ASST: Andrew Hutchinson (1), Eric Staal (5)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Andrew Hutchinson (3) ASST: Rod Brind'Amour (9)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Jon Sim (6) ASST: Ilya Kovalchuk (8)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Scott Mellanby (5) ASST: Greg De Vries (3), Jim Slater (4)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Ryan Bayda (1) ASST: Eric Belanger (4), Andrew Ladd (1)|
4 - 3 CAR
|Ilya Kovalchuk (6) ASST: Vitaly Vishnevski (3)|
4 - 4 Tie
|Anton Babchuk (1) ASST: Justin Williams (6)|
5 - 4 CAR
|Shane Hnidy Roughing against Craig Adams|
|Shane Hnidy Fighting (maj) against Craig Adams|
|Craig Adams Roughing against Shane Hnidy|
|Craig Adams Fighting (maj) against Shane Hnidy|
|Brad Larsen Interference against Eric Belanger|
|Niclas Havelid Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Bobby Holik Interference against Justin Williams|
|Rod Brind'Amour Tripping against Jon Sim|
|Ryan Bayda Too many men/ice - bench|
|Steve Rucchin Interference on goalkeeper against Cam Ward|
|Andrew Ladd Hooking against Greg De Vries|
|Justin Williams Tripping against Jon Sim|
|Vyacheslav Kozlov Holding against Andrew Ladd|
|Marian Hossa Hooking against Craig Adams|
|SA: 38||TOI: 60:58|
|Saves: 33||EV: 21 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 11 - 12|
|SV%: .868||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 36||TOI: 61:11|
|Saves: 32||EV: 26 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .889||SH: 3 - 3|