|OTT||0||0||1||(0 - 0)||1|
|CAR||0||0||2||(0 - 0)||2|
The same word kept re-surfacing in the Carolina locker room as the home roll continued Wednesday night – composure.
Playing a red-hot Ottawa team and trailing 1-0 early in the third, the Hurricanes remained with the game plan that has produced one of the best stretches in team history, getting the game-tying goal from captain Rod Brind’Amour and then the game-winner from none other than Anton Babchuk yet again with 6:01 remaining to beat the Senators 2-1.
Carolina, which started the night in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, inched a step closer to clinching a playoff spot with Florida losing again. The Canes now have 89 points (eight clear of the ninth-seeded Panthers) and one shy of fourth-place Philadelphia, which has four games in hand.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Brind’Amour, who also assisted on the game-winner. “But I’m proud that even though we’ve had some big wins we seem to be able to let that go and come back and know we’ve got to win that next one.
“We’ve played a lot of games, and even though it looks like we’ve in fourth or fifth, if the other teams win their games we’re just barely hanging on. So, we’ve been able to focus on that and come to play every night.”
While obviously cautious, the Canes would have to totally collapse over their final six games – four at home and with no back-to-back nights – not to make the playoffs for the first time since raising the Cup in 2006.
“I’m not so sure we’re not better off with a tough schedule because it keeps us in our rhythm, but we have some players who need to rest and some players who need to heal, and this time should be good for us,” said coach Paul Maurice. “I haven’t had the sense in the room we’re watching anybody else play but our own team. The key is to go in (to the playoffs) with as positive feeling as you can.”
“We’ve taking care of our business,” added Cam Ward.
The victory was the ninth straight at the RBC Center to tie a franchise record set during the Cup season. The Canes also improved to 9-2-1 this month to match the best March ever (20 points) with one road game left this month at New Jersey over the weekend.
“The similarities (with each nine-game streak) is that the fans are behind us 100 percent,” Ward said. “We’ve so fortunate to be able to play in front of a loud and full building. They really have been that seventh man for us and given us that boost.”
It didn’t look like it was going to be Carolina’s night with a disallowed goal in the first period and Eric Staal hitting the post 26 seconds into a scoreless third, but the crowd got behind the Canes after falling behind 1-0 and Ward remained strong in his 23rd straight start.
Brind’Amour’s sixth goal in his last 10 games came with the clubs skating 4-on-4, a strong suit for Carolina, having outscored opponents 12-4 this season with each team a man down.
“We’ve got some smart players and when you’ve got some extra time with the puck that makes a big difference,” Brind’Amour said of the team’s success 4-on-4. “When you have good players you can make plays with more space.”
The Canes then received a power-play opportunity late in the game with Mike Fisher going off for tripping. That allowed Babchuk to wind up his wicked shot yet again, finding the back of the net through a maze of players.
“When he uses that shot of his it does a lot of damage,” Tuomo Ruutu said of Babchuk, who scored his 13th of the season and second game-winner in the last five games – all Carolina wins. “It’s so hard and has been so accurate lately. I don’t have that shot.”
“That was a perfect example of how good his shot is,” added Ward. “It wasn’t the greatest angle, and instead of picking a corner he blew it by him.”
Ottawa pulled goalie Brian Elliott with about a minute and a half left, but the Canes buckled down and didn’t allow many good chances to a desperate Senators offense trying to get the equalizer.
It appeared Carolina would take a 1-0 lead early in the first on an attempt by Jussi Jokinen, but it was ruled that he kicked the puck in and the goal was disallowed. Jokinen was playing on the second line with Matt Cullen out with a lower body injury.
“What has impressed me with this team of late is we’ve been very composed and we haven’t panicked,” Ward said. “This was a tight defensive game in the first two periods, but we didn’t force the issue and waited for our opportunities and we capitalized.”
NOTES: Ward is 15-6-2 during his last 23 starts. … The Canes registered at least 30 shots for the 20th straight game. … Carolina scored just one first-period goal in four games this season against Ottawa. … Joe Corvo, Staal and Whitney have played in all 76 games. … Brind’Amour has points in 10 of his last 11 games, including a five-game point streak. … The Canes are a combined 18-3-3 in March over the last two seasons. … Carolina has outscored opponents 35-13 during its nine-game home winning streak. … The defense corps has 13 game-winning goals with Corvo leading the way with six.
|Ryan Shannon (6) Backhand shot - ASST: Nick Foligno (12), Filip Kuba (34)|
1 - 0 OTT
|Rod Brind'Amour (14) Wrist shot - ASST: Ray Whitney (45), Joe Corvo (21)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Anton Babchuk (13) Slapshot - ASST: Joni Pitkanen (25), Rod Brind'Amour (32)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Anton Volchenkov Holding against Ryan Bayda|
|Filip Kuba Interference against Ray Whitney|
|Tuomo Ruutu Tripping against Daniel Alfredsson|
|Tim Conboy Roughing against Jarkko Ruutu|
|Jarkko Ruutu Roughing against Tim Conboy|
|Mike Fisher Tripping against Chad LaRose|
|SA: 30||TOI: 58:26|
|Saves: 28||EV: 25 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 4|
|SV%: .933||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 22||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 21||EV: 20 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .955||SH: 0 - 0|