Even though the playoffs are months away, the New York Rangers looked like a team geared up for playoff hockey when they hit the ice in Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes. They were playing with a crazed intensity, looking to put the ‘Canes down early, and dispatch them quickly. The ‘Canes did not match the Rangers’ intensity and fast start, with the exception of their goalie Cam Ward.
Cam Ward is an octopus
At least that is what I thought watching him play. Cam Ward was greeted immediately in the game by a barrage of shots from the New York Rangers. He had to use his arms and legs and paddle and glove from the very start. The Rangers came to play hard and fast and did not waste any time getting Ward’s adrenaline going in between the pipes. Any thought of Cam settling in was dismissed soon after the opening puck drop. As he has been since early November, he was up to the challenge and played exceptionally well:
The Rangers continued to fire away at Cam Ward, and after what certainly appeared to be a Rangers goal, the Hurricanes jumped out on a two-on-one with Nathan Gerbe executing a perfect pass to Chris Terry. Fresh off a similar play Thursday night which resulted in a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Terry finished off the play with a laser whizzing past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Score 1-0 ‘Canes…game on.
Even though the New York Rangers were clearly beating the Hurricanes up and down the ice, Gerbe and Terry put their team in the lead. The only reason they were not down by two or even three goals at that point was because Cam Ward came to play.
Nathan Gerbe always comes to play, and it is good to see Chris Terry scoring. But the ‘Canes were fortunate to be in the lead, especially with the performance they were about to display on the power play.
The Carolina’s first opportunity on the power play started out very scattered, with the Rangers spending s great deal of time shorthanded in the Hurricanes’ end of the ice. Not surprisingly, the Rangers killed off the
penalty with little effort. It was the first of what would be a disastrous night for Carolina on the power play. Frankly, it was almost impossible to look at the ice and tell that the Hurricanes were on a power play.
They ended up with two shots in four power play attempts on the night. This is totally unacceptable and it may very well have cost the Hurricanes a win. Henrik Lundqvist is a great goalie. He was not great Saturday night and the ‘Canes just did not capitalize at all, especially on the power play. Coach Bill Peters agreed after the game:
“We got out-worked. I don’t know if we got a shot. Well, we did on that last power play, we got set up, finally. But we got out-worked, period.”
The first period ended in a flurry, with the Rangers carrying an 11-6 shots on goal advantage into the locker room. Not having played since last Tuesday, the New York Rangers were on fresh legs, and were playing a fierce brand of hockey. Nevertheless, the Hurricanes closed out the first period with a one-goal advantage. If they gave out stars by period, Cam Ward would definitely have been awarded the first star.
Rick Nash almost
The pace of the game settled a bit at the beginning of the second period. Around four minutes in, the Hurricanes were once again awarded the man advantage. Once again the Hurricanes were stymied by the Rangers’ penalty kill. By the end of this power-play, Carolina still had zero shots on goal playing with a man up.
Seeming to smell opportunity, Rick Nash looking to add to his 20 goal total thus far this season, took the puck deep and shot at Cam Ward coming from behind the net. On the rebound Justin Faulk found himself hooking to prevent a shot by Derek Stepan, and the Hurricanes’ man advantage was negated The ‘Canes were able to kill the penalty and even-play strength resumed.
The second period ended unceremoniously. The Rangers extended their shots on goal advantage to 24-13, but the Hurricanes remained in front, 1-0. Cam Ward was carrying his team to a possible win.
20 more minutes
The 13,329 watching in Raleigh’s PNC Arena were holding their collective breaths, wondering if the Hurricanes could hang on. They would soon find out as the Rangers were awarded a power-play on Brad Malone’s hooking penalty. The Rangers’ J.T. Miller took the pass from Mats Zuccarello and ate Cam Ward up in a one-on-one showdown.
The Rangers finally solved Cam Ward, and the tension immediately began to build in the arena. Would the ‘Canes be able to stay in the game, or had the dam just burst?
Fortunately :26 seconds later, Jeff Skinner lit the lamp. What had become a tie game, and potentially a huge letdown for Carolina, was immediately once again a one goal advantage for the home team.
Jeff Skinner was assisted on the scoring play by Elias Lindholm, his line mate on the “young guns” line. I wrote earlier this week about how much I like this line, and they did not disappoint. Henrik Lundqvist played less than an outstanding game throughout, and on this play by Jeff Skinner, he really did not have a chance. 2-1 Carolina.
Man without a mask
The New York Rangers kept firing at Cam Ward. They really played the kind of hockey that can only be described as relentless. Ward was standing tall throughout. Then there was a play that required extensive review by the officials. The Rangers seemed to have put the puck past Cam Ward, but only as his mask was in the process of coming off of his head. Further review by the officials resulted in a ruling of no goal. After the game, Cam Ward described what happened:
“The shot hit me in the head, and the strap on my mask came loose.”
The New York Rangers continued their assault, and at 17:37, Kevin Klein took advantage of a face off win in the Hurricanes’ zone to launch the puck hard at Cam Ward. He found the back of the neck and the score was tied, 2-2.
The game ended tied at 2 in regulation. The Hurricanes did get a point. But, they could not finish the Rangers off in overtime, and eventually lost in the shootout. The final score was 3-2 Rangers. A very disappointing end to an extraordinary effort put forth by Cam Ward to help his team get a win. Jeff Skinner acknowledged Ward’s work and his team’s lack of effort:
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 21, 2014
What can you say? Another “we started slow” night in Raleigh. I don’t even want to talk about that. It just boggles the mind. Hurricanes fans will get very frustrated very fast if this team cannot clear the “slow start” hurdle. They owe it to Cam Ward to play hard from the opening drop of the puck to the final horn. It’s good that the team got a point and again scored more than one goal. Just think what they could have done with Cam Ward’s play combined with the relentless effort that the New York Rangers brought to Raleigh. Here’s hoping we see that combined effort from the ‘Canes soon.
This just in
Alexander Semin has been activated from injured reserve and Justin Shugg has been sent back down to Charlotte.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 21, 2014
If Semin does not bring some game very soon, maybe Shugg should get his Hurricanes sweater back. It’s good Semin is healthy. Let’s hope his game has recovered, too.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.