|TBL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|CAR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
A homestand to remember.
Locked in a tight battle for the Southeast Division lead two weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes capped off an impressive six-game stretch at the RBC Center with a dominating 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Four of the five goals came from players who weren’t with the team at the start of January as the Canes got nine of a possible 12 points over the homestand to grab a five-point division lead over hard-charging Washington with 14 games left.
“I thought we did a real good job here responding at home,” said Eric Staal, who had a three-point night with a goal and two assists. “We needed to string together a bunch of wins, and after the Rangers’ game we needed to respond with a big win. Everybody really came up big. This needs to continue for the rest of the month.”
Sergei Samsonov scored two, while Joe Corvo, Tuomo Ruutu and Staal added goals as the Canes outshot listless Tampa Bay 33-23, and more importantly stayed out of the penalty box until the final eight minutes of the game.
“The homestand has been exactly what we needed,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “It’s good to have a couple days to get the guys away for a day and then come back and work in a few things. But we’ve got to be marching full speed ahead when we head down to Atlanta.”
The Canes head to play the Thrashers on Wednesday with a full head of steam against teams from the Southeast, having won their last six against division opponents to improve to 14-8-1.
With Carolina up 3-1, Samsonov scored his second of the night and 11th in 24 games since coming to Carolina from Chicago four minutes into the third. Two minutes later, Ruutu scored his first in a Carolina uniform after taking a perfect backhanded pass across the slot from Staal to seal the deal as the Canes improved to 19-12-3 at home.
“We may have caught them on an off night when they were tired and they weren’t really working enough to get power-play opportunities,” Corvo said of Tampa Bay. “It kind of makes it easy on us.”
Carolina came in just 1-for-21 on the power play this season against the Lightning and outscored 10-0 in the second period. That all changed for the better during the middle 20 minutes Saturday night in which the Canes registered 18 shots and grabbed control of a tie game.
Corvo, who switched sticks before the game, scored 1:02 into the second to give the Canes the lead for good, rifling a slap shot from 35 feet just seconds after Carolina got off a power play.
“I had been using an 85-100 flex and I switched to 110 today to feel a little more solid, get a little bit more snap on it,” said Corvo. “That shot was pretty hard.”
Midway through the period the Canes went up 3-1 just 13 seconds into yet another man-advantage situation. This time Samsonov got the goal after it was tipped by a Tampa Bay player with Ruutu creating traffic in front of Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith.
With Ray Whitney sidelined with a leg injury, Staal took over the team lead in scoring with a three-point game. Staal how has 31 goals and 30 assists for 61 points. He needs 10 points over the final 14 regular-season games to surpass last year’s total of 70 points.
The Canes fell behind early for the second straight home game when the Lightning capitalized on a Carolina turnover behind Ward, stuffing home a rebound attempt after a scramble in front 7:04 in.
Ruutu, moving up to play on the first line with Whitney out, assisted on Staal’s 31st that tied it at 1-1 midway through the first. Staal took a pass and carved his way through traffic, sending a backhander on Smith before corralling his own rebound and flipping it over the goalie’s outstretched stick.
“He stepped in real nice, made some great plays along the wall,” Staal said of Ruutu. “He finished off that goal very nicely and he was physical. It’s always nice to have somebody jump in there when a great player like Whit goes out and he did a great job, banging their D and making them second-guess themselves when they went back for the puck. He played a great game.”
NOTES: Glen Wesley played in his 900th game with the franchise. … Tim Gleason returned after missing one game with a head injury. … Staal has 13 goals in 28 career games against the Lightning. … Staal has a combined 13 shots over his last two games. … Carolina had 21 shots blocked. … The Canes improved to 23-4-1 when leading after two periods.
|Jeff Halpern (12) ASST: Michel Ouellet (15), Mathieu Darche (9)|
1 - 0 TBL
|Eric Staal (31) ASST: Tuomo Ruutu (17), Tim Gleason (12)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Joe Corvo (8) ASST: Sergei Samsonov (14), Eric Staal (29)|
2 - 1 CAR
|PPG - Sergei Samsonov (10) ASST: Frantisek Kaberle (15), Scott Walker (15)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Sergei Samsonov (11) ASST: Patrick Eaves (8), Matt Cullen (33)|
4 - 1 CAR
|Tuomo Ruutu (7) ASST: Eric Staal (30), Erik Cole (24)|
5 - 1 CAR
|Mike Lundin Tripping against Keith Aucoin|
|Shane O'Brien Hooking against Matt Cullen|
|Mike Smith Tripping against Keith Aucoin|
|Jeff Halpern Roughing against Trevor Letowski|
|Trevor Letowski Slashing against Jeff Halpern|
|Paul Ranger Tripping against Keith Aucoin|
|Dan Boyle Roughing against Erik Cole|
|Jason Ward Hooking against Ryan Bayda|
|Cam Ward Delaying Game-Ill. play goalie|
|SA: 33||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 28||EV: 18 - 22|
|PIM: 2||PP: 10 - 11|
|SV%: .848||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 23||TOI: 59:55|
|Saves: 22||EV: 21 - 22|
|PIM: 2||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .957||SH: 0 - 0|