Head coach Kirk Muller had a long discussion with both Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe during practice on Wednesday and made the decision to place Bowman on the third line with Chad LaRose and Brandon Sutter, while moving Dalpe on the top line with captain Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. The decision paid off for Muller as Bowman assisted on the first goal of the game by Brandon Sutter, while Zac Dalpe had a goal and an assist, the first two-point night in his young NHL career. Eric Staal also broke out of a scoring slump, scoring a huge goal on a breakaway (No, that’s not a typo), as well as the game winning power-play goal in overtime. Staal ended up with 3 points (2G, 1A), a +1, 5 shots on goal with 24:20 of ice time. Tlusty had two assists with 13:34 of ice-time.
It was not all peachy for the Canes, however, as the Toronto Maple Leafs came out of the second period intermission with their foot on the gas pedal. Nikolai Kulemin and Joffrey Lupul scored about 3 minutes apart, giving the Leafs a 3-1 lead. Less than a minute later, Staal took a clearing attempt from Dalpe and was off to the races, beating Leafs’ goaltender James Reimer to bring the Canes within one. After the captain scored, the Canes starting pushing and putting rubber on Reimer. Eric Staal then was able to take a puck behind the Toronto goal, center it out in front to Tlusty who was able to hack and whack at it as Zac Dalpe came by and flipped it over Reimer’s shoulder to tie the game. The game headed into overtime, where the Canes have not been successful all season, having a 1-6 record heading into this overtime session. Tim Connolly took a tripping call at 2:31 of overtime, which put the Canes on their third power play. The captain came through in the clutch, taking a one-timer from Justin Faulk and got it past Reimer, sending the RBC Center into a frenzy.
Some notes/observations from the game:
- The Canes really came on in the third period and beyond, outshooting the Leafs 19-9 (including 3-0 in overtime). Shots on goal ended up being 34-24 in the Canes’ favor.
- It was the first time in a while that the Canes were on the plus side in the special teams battle. The penalty kill went 7/7, only allowing 7 total shots on all of the Leafs’ power play. The power play went 1/3, including the game winner, while registering 5 shots on 3 power plays.
- Kirk Muller also had a discussion with the teams about sacrificing yourself to block shots and how important it is in game situations. The Canes had 18 blocked shots compared to Toronto’s 11.
- Jaro Spacek ended up with a +2, Tim Gleason and Jussi Jokinen with a -2.
- Eric Staal led the way with 5 shots on goal, Alexei Ponikarovsky had 4, Justin Faulk, Anthony Stewart and Jiri Tlusty had 3 a piece.
- The RBC Center was rocking last night … some fans observed that they haven’t heard it that loud in years. Good to see that a team who is second to last in the conference can still draw 17,400+.