‘Canes Sweet Revenge; Beat the Flames 4-1

The Carolina Hurricanes tasted sweet revenge Tuesday night, beating the Calgary Flames 4-1. As you may recall, the Flames had no problem pounding the injury-riddled team from Carolina, 5-0 on October 23rd. It was part of an overall horrid visit to the Great Northwest, and a more horrible October for the Hurricanes.

As Tuesday night’s game started, I saw at least two shifts where there was an opportunity for an offensive rush by the ‘Canes, but the team held up and changed lines. The Hurricanes appeared to be lacking offensive zeal, which has been a trait of this team in the recent past. Another slow start seemed to be in place.

Also on two occasions early, Alexander Semin looked very nice handling the puck, skating around skillfully, only to eventually wind up not doing anything productive. Old habits are hard to break, and Semin looked as if it was “Semin time” and not “team time.” Fortunately for him and the team, “team time” would come together.

Sweet revenge was coming, but not before a Flames’ power play.

The Hurricanes looked a bit disorganized and flat at times on defense in the first period. At 11:58, the aforementioned Alexander Semin was given a two-minute penalty for tripping. I normally don’t use this forum to question the officials on calls, however in this case, the tripping looked very questionable to me. In spite of my opinion, Semin was given a breather in the penalty box.

Calgary scored on this power play right in front of Cam Ward. He looked frozen as if he could not see the puck due to player traffic in front of him. This is an old characteristic of his that has not been as prevalent of late. A fan sent me a text after Calgary’s goal saying the ‘Canes looked like they might have tired legs, basically agreeing with my observation that the defense looked flat. In any event, it was 1-0 Calgary, and thoughts of sweet revenge were beginning to fade.

Zach Boychuk turns it around

Zach Boychuk made an incredible shot to tie the game at 17:30. His 3rd goal of the season was a result of his tenacity and refusal to be denied. The assists came from Justin Faulk (7) and Andre Sekera (6). Of course assists set up most goals, but Boychuk took the puck and came down the wall, muscling his way into the Flames’ zone. Goaltender Jonas Hiller was set, but Boychuk fired an amazing shot almost parallel to the net for the tying goal.

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The 25-year old Canadian was drafted as a scorer. He showed on that goal that he is indeed a scorer, but also that his off-season training and strength conditioning are paying off. He forced his will along the boards, and was rewarded with a fantastic goal which turned the tenor of the entire game around. Thoughts of sweet revenge for the Hurricanes were given new life.

In the locker room after the game, I asked Zach Boychuk about his fantastic season thus far:

It was sweet revenge time from then on for the ‘Canes

Any semblance of tired legs was immediately dispelled after Boychuck’s goal tied the game in the first period. The second period began with Justin Faulk wasting no time on the ‘Canes first power play of the period.  He took an assist from Riley Nash on the face off, and blasted it by Jonas Hiller. It was Faulk’s second goal of the season, and Nash’s seventh assist and eleventh point.

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The significance of this goal was not lost on the Hurricanes’ television play-by-play voice, John Forslund. Chatting with Mike Maniscalco on the ‘Canes radio post-game show, “The Aftermath,” Forslund pointed out that Faulk took the puck and immediately fired the shot. He reminded listeners that this is light years away from what characterized Carolina’s power play last season. Instead of receiving the puck and shooting, last season Faulk or any other Hurricane player might well have received the puck, wheeled around and initiated a series of pointless, ineffective passes. This play is significant because it shows that the team is listening to their coach, Bill Peters, who is preaching an aggressive power play mentality.

At 12:15 in the second period,

Jeff Skinner laced one by Jonas Hiller to make it 3-1 Hurricanes. Sweet revenge was getting closer. The goal marked the 100th for Skinner and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how it got by Hiller. It was amazing!

Jeff Skinner is now the fourth youngest player franchise history to reach 100 goals. He is in good company, passing Eric Staal. Only Sylvain Turgeon, Ron Francis, and Geoff Sanderson reached the milestone at a younger age.

The assists on the 100th-goal milestone for Skinner came from Alexander Semin (5) and Justin Faulk (8). Semin had abandoned the earlier skills demonstration of the first period, and to his credit was working hard and playing the team game that Coach Peters is demanding from everyone up and down the roster.

Cam Ward seemed to feed off the team’s energy

“Wardo” made several saves that we are coming to expect him to make.

Cam Ward saved 22 of 23 shots, and has really settled into a zone of reliability for his teammates. The feeling is mutual, as he is also gaining confidence that his teammates are playing smart, effective defense, and not hanging him out to dry. He commented after the game that, “The guys are doing a good job of letting me see the puck.”

“Wardo” has noticeable been effective with his stick in the past few games. When asked about his stick play, he said, “Myself and Dave Marcoux have been really working on post play and having an active stick.” Like many other elements of this team that seem to be coming together, the key words in Ward’s response were, “really working.” It is clear to even the most casual of Hurricanes fans that this team is responding to Coach Peters’ work ethic, and is being rewarded for their hard work.

Fan favorites Tim Gleason and Jeff Skinner combined for the sweetener at 9:57

The sweet revenge was cemented when “Skins” found the charging Gleason who took the puck and snapped it by Hiller to make it 4-1. After the game, Coach Peters commented that,

“Gleason made a good read on the pinch and that all six defense men have the green light to pinch in the right situation.”

Gleason netted his first goal of the season, and it was very sweet indeed. Enough cannot be said about Tim Gleason and the contribution to the Hurricanes since his return this season. He is a top-notch defenseman who can also score. He is gritty and tough and not afraid to grind. While in no sense is he an “enforcer” in the traditional sense of NHL lore, he will not hesitate to step up for his teammates. I asked here if ‘Canes fans are glad Tim Gleason is back home in Raleigh. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

All in all it was a fabulous hockey game

For the 9,906 fans in attendance, and for writers like me who are fans at heart, the Carolina Hurricanes got to taste a bit of sweet revenge for their previous shelling by the Flames. It’s disconcerting that many ‘Canes fans are staying away, not convinced yet that this team can play.

Fans in Raleigh might want to get to the PNC Arena Thursday and support their Carolina Hurricanes. Something special is happening with this group and their coach, and you won’t want to miss a minute of another shot at sweet revenge for Carolina, this time against the Winnipeg Jets