The Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth played stellar in net as the Sabres beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime.
According to Hurricanes’ commentator John Forslund, “The Hurricanes had every chance in the world [to win this game].” At least the Canes skate away with one point, but it hurts to know that they missed an opportunity to slip into an 8th place tie with the Sabres. Instead, they remain in 9th place and two points back from the Rangers.
After taking an early 1-0 deficit after twenty minutes of play, the Hurricanes skaters got on their race horses and dominated the second and third period, except they finished with a horrendous 0-6 on the power play. Learning how to play with the man advantage is something the Canes need to fix if they want to continue playing in late April. But tonight, all Caniacs and hockey fans need to tip their cap to Enroth for his 35 save performance.
In the first period, Chris Butler found Cam Ward out of position for a split second and roofed a slap shot to give the Sabres and early lead on the road. That was Butler’s first goal of the season. Had Joni Pitkanen layed out on the ice to block the passing lane on the 3-2 rush, Butler may not have had a lane to shoot the puck and score the Sabres’ only regulation goal. This is something I have noticed all season long. Not a single defenseman on the Hurricanes will consistently sacrifice his body to block the lanes. They only use their stick (which is less than two inches thick). The one man who sacrificed his body day in and day out for the Hurricanes was Glen Wesley, who now has his jersey retired in the RBC Center. To me, that is a sign of laziness on the defensive end because the Sabres were getting down on their knees and even diving to block pucks in front of the net. This game was not a time to slack off defensively because there is too much on the line. The one skater tonight for the Canes who reminded me of Wesley was Bryan Allen for his defensive prowess in front of Ward. There were two distinct times where he prevented the Sabres from scoring on an open net.
Eric Staal tied the game 5:50 into the second period on a slap shot that ricocheted off a Sabres skate and over the head of Enroth. Even though the Canes outplayed the Sabres for 42 minutes, they couldn’t come away with the W. Marc-Andre Gragnani scored his first NHL goal for the Sabres almost three minutes into OT. His shot deflected off the sticks of two Carolina skaters and past the pads of Ward, who was positioned outside the crease. The Hurricanes fall to 11-11 in overtime play this season. Even though the Hurricanes lost, now is not the time to hang their heads. Now is the time where they have to get tough.
Here is what the final week has in store for them:
4/6 vs. Detroit Red Wings
4/8 @ Atlanta Thrashers
4/9 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Hurricanes need to take care of business but they also need some help from the 8th place Rangers, who have three home games left to play:
4/4 vs. Boston Bruins
4/7 vs. Atlanta Thrashers
4/9 vs. New Jersey Devils
The one bright spot is that the Thrashers have to play back-to-back road games against the Rangers and the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes need to pick up 6 points in these final three games to help their playoff chances. The Hurricanes are back in action Wednesday night against the Red Wings at 7PM EST. The Canes have no control of their destiny. They can only hope that the Bruins take care of business against the Rangers tomorrow night and give the Hurricanes a chance to fight back.
For the record – Sabres’ Drew Stafford recorded his 100th career NHL assist today and Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal became the third player in franchise history to reach 500 points. He is the only player to register every point as a Hurricane.