|WSH||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|CAR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
"Confident" Cole Leads Canes to Victory
RALEIGH, N.C. (November 9, 2006) - Erik Cole is officially back.
Sure, Cole returned from a broken neck to play the final two games of last year's Stanley Cup run, and he suited up for the first 16 contests this season as well.
But the rugged left wing was just feeling his way, searching for his game until Thursday night against the Washington Capitals.
Cole just may look back a few months from now and realize Game No. 17 was the turning point of his season in a 5-0 Carolina win. Cole scored goals in the first and second periods to stake the Canes to a 2-0 lead, getting his first multi-goal game since being rammed into the boards from behind in Pittsburgh on March 4 - the night he broke his neck and ruined what was a career season.
He then capped off his remarkable night Thursday with his fourth career hat trick with 5:21 left, lifting a nifty backhander over the shoulder of Brent Johnson.
"It has been more about my timing and seeing everything," said Cole, who played 20 minutes for the fifth straight game. "In the first period I was just going, going, going and not reading any plays very well. And the second period, it slowed down a little bit. I am getting used to playing with the guys again. It was quite a long layoff."
His second goal, scored late in the second period, came on a Carolina power play and was vintage Cole. He positioned himself in front of Johnson, who was keeping Washington in the game with spectacular save after spectacular save. But Johnson couldn't stop Cole's off-the-hip redirect of an Eric Staal shot.
"It was good to have things bounce my way," said Cole. "That was just a lucky one on the power play. I'm just glad we got this win to set the tone at home for this stretch."
Cole's two goals gave the Hurricanes a nice cushion heading into the third, but Carolina can thank penalty killers Rod Brind'Amour, Mike Commodore, Bret Hedican and goalie Cam Ward for preserving the lead. Glen Wesley, Chad LaRose and Niclas Wallin took penalties within a minute and 12 seconds of each other, giving the Capitals a two-man advantage for 2:18.
Ward was able to come up with four saves during the kill, but Carolina's captain and the two D-men get gold stars for turning the momentum and getting the crowd into the game. If Washington was lost on offense leading up to the Carolina penalties, the Capitals certainly appeared zapped after failing miserably on the power play.
"I was looking to see if we were going to call a timeout and let them rest and keep going at it," said Cole. "Those guys have to be in the top three in the league of getting the job done 5-on-3."
"They did a great job of reading things and getting in the shot lanes," added Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette. "They took away passing seams and when he needed the big saves Cam came up with them."
Cole registered his fifth point in the last three games when he and Scott Walker teamed on a picture-perfect 2-on-1 breakout in the first, with Walker's crossing pass tipped in by a streaking Cole, who started the play along the boards deep in Carolina's zone.
The Hurricanes held the Caps without a shot over the final 12:27 of the first period and had three power-play chances, but could only manage the Cole goal before breaking the game open with a three-goal third.
In addition to Cole's hat trick, the third period produced three firsts. Glen Wesley registered his first point of the season with an assist on Staal's 10th of the season. Three minutes later, Trevor Letowski got his first goal in a Carolina uniform, lighting the lamp in his second game back after missing nine in a row with a concussion.
And Ward notched his first career shutout in his 43rd NHL game. Ward, who stopped 20 shots, did get a shutout in Game 2 of the Cup final.
"It was a credit to the guys," Ward said. "They played great in front of me."
The Hurricanes were playing in just their sixth home game of the season, and drew their first standing ovation over the final minute from the 18,639 at the RBC Center.
"It was a fun atmosphere to be playing in," said Ward.
After a slow 0-3-1 start, Carolina has now won eight of its last 13 heading into a Saturday night game against the Penguins.
"When Cole is going, we're a tough team to beat," Commodore said. "Cole has picked it up and he looks confident," added Laviolette.
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.
|Erik Cole (4) ASST: Scott Walker (5), Niclas Wallin (3)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Erik Cole (5) ASST: Eric Staal (9), Bret Hedican (3)|
2 - 0 CAR
|Eric Staal (10) ASST: Scott Walker (6), Glen Wesley (1)|
3 - 0 CAR
|Trevor Letowski (1) ASST: Andrew Ladd (2)|
4 - 0 CAR
|Erik Cole (6) ASST: Ray Whitney (16), Rod Brind'Amour (16)|
5 - 0 CAR
|Trevor Letowski Hooking against Brian Sutherby|
|Donald Brashear Hooking against Glen Wesley|
|Shaone Morrisonn Holding against Justin Williams|
|Alexander Semin Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|Glen Wesley Tripping against Alexander Semin|
|Chad LaRose Hooking against Dainius Zubrus|
|Niclas Wallin Cross checking against Alexander Semin|
|Mike Green Hooking against Justin Williams|
|Mike Green Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|John Erskine Interference against Trevor Letowski|
|Brent Johnson Tripping against Chad LaRose|
|SA: 39||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 34||EV: 27 - 31|
|PIM: 2||PP: 7 - 8|
|SV%: .872||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 20||TOI: 59:51|
|Saves: 20||EV: 15 - 15|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 1 - 1|