Gaining strength

Gaining strength
By Matt Romig, Yahoo Sports
May 22, 2006

Matt Romig
Yahoo Sports
Like they did in Game 1, the Hurricanes dominated play for two periods. Carolina controlled play in the first and third periods Saturday and it didn't matter. In Game 2 it was the first two periods that belonged to the home team.

Then a puck pinballed off a few bodies and it looked like a fluke goal might shift momentum to Buffalo's side once again. Glen Wesley had other ideas. The 37-year-old Carolina defenseman made a diving save at the goal line to protect a two-goal lead and preserve a 4-3 series-evening win.

Buffalo will have home-ice advantage in Game 3, but momentum is clearly on the side of the Hurricanes. After out-shooting Buffalo 17-8 in the third period of Game 1, Carolina jumped out to a 28-10 shot advantage through two periods Monday.

For at least one game, the Canes figured out a way to neutralize the shot-blocking abilities of the Sabres. Buffalo frustrated Carolina with 29 blocked shots in Game 1. Monday only 11 shots were turned aside before reaching Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff would later say it was the worst two periods of hockey his team has played in the postseason. It was not until the final 20 minutes when Carolina got into penalty trouble that the Sabres scratched back to make it close.

The Sabres could get a lift when returning to Buffalo, where they have won four of five games in the playoffs. Center Tim Connolly, out with a concussion since Game 2 of the Ottawa series, could return for Game 3 or 4.


Rod Brind'Amour helped Carolina win the possession battle by winning 23 of the 34 faceoffs he took. The Hurricanes captain also set up a screen on Carolina's first goal and was a physical presence (as usual) with a team-high three hits.


What a play by Glen Wesley to prevent a Buffalo goal in the third period. The Hurricanes were protecting a two-goal lead when a Jay McKee slapshot got through traffic, deflected off goalie Cam Ward's leg and made a beeline for the Carolina net. Ward was defenseless to stop it, but Wesley made a headlong dive into the crease and managed to sweep the puck off the goal line just inches before the red light came on. Buffalo's ability to block shots was a huge factor in Game 1. Wesley led the Hurricanes Monday with five blocked shots as Carolina held a 16-11 advantage in that category.


Ray Whitney is primarily known for his speed, but the winger set up his first goal Monday with a little grit. With the score tied early in the second period, Whitney gloved down a loose puck, absorbed a few whacks behind the Buffalo net and fed a pass to Doug Weight out front. Moments later Eric Staal unleashed a slapshot and it was Whitney who had set up in front of Ryan Miller for the deflection. He scored again later in the period on a one-timer from between the circles for his second two-goal game of the playoffs.


Neither team was particularly disciplined in Game 2. An unnecessary charging penalty on Carolina forward Cory Stillman set up Buffalo's first goal, the Sabres were whistled for four minor penalties in a second period that saw the game get away from them and the Hurricanes went two-men down late in the game to turn a laugher into a nail-biter.


The phrase "he'd like to have that one back" hasn't applied much to Ryan Miller this postseason – maybe not at all since he allowed six goals in the series opener against Ottawa. But the term very much applies to the fourth goal he allowed Monday. Justin Williams had just entered the Buffalo zone when he directed an innocent wrist shot toward Miller. It may have been redirected off a Carolina stick, but Miller had a good look at it – until, that is, it fluttered out of his glove and behind him for a goal. Without this soft goal and Wesley's miracle save Game 2 would have been very different.


Game 3: Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Edmonton Oilers – The box scores have been misleading in this series, which is often the case when a goalie puts a team on his shoulders. The Andy McDonald-Teemu Selanne line accounted for only one point in Games 1 and 2, but they were actually quite active. Scoring chances don't always translate into goals when a netminder is as focused as Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson. Both 3-1 games were essentially one-goal decisions, as the Oilers punctuated each win with an empty-netter. The Ducks haven't won in Edmonton since 1999, a span of 12 games. Since this young team doesn't have deep ties to that futility, that shouldn't be a factor. But it won't take too many Roloson saves for frustration to set in.


Wesley's diving save deserves several looks. Not only did the Carolina defenseman have to leap over sprawled-out goalie Cam Ward, but he had to be careful that his momentum didn't carry the puck into the net. Somehow, Wesley managed to wind up in the net – he actually knocked it off its moorings, earning a well-timed stoppage – while clearing the puck out of danger.

Matt Romig is a senior editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Matt a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 1:47 am, EDT

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