Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Carolina vs. New York: Day 3 at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament


The New York Rangers were attempting to close out round-robin play at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament with an unblemished 3-0 record, and looked to do this Tuesday afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes have had a struggle in the tourney thus far, looking scattered and disorganized in an 8-2 loss to Dallas on the first day, followed by a tough 2-1 defeat to St. Louis on Sunday. At a glance one would think this matchup would be a mismatch, but as we know, that’s why they play the games.

Carolina’s bad fortune continued early in the tilt. With Austin Levi in the box on an early slashing call, the Rangers took an early 1-0 lead just over 2 minutes in when Jonathan Audy-Marchessault blasted a pass from Tim Erixon past Canes goalie Mavric Parks with the man-advantage. But Carolina wouldn’t stay down for long. Victor Rask created traffic in front of Rangers’ netminder Jason Missiaen by buzzing the net on a frequent basis, and a big crash behind the net caused enough distraction to enable Scott Pitt to tie the game at 1 with 13:14 in the first.

Shane McColgan restored the New York with 8:47 to play in the first, only to have Caroline come back to tie it nearly five minutes later when Tyler Carroll tapped in his own rebound with Michael St. Croix in the box for the Blueshirts. The power play pairing of Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy cycled the puck and manned the point with precision on two Carolina power plays later in the period, which helped give Carolina a 15-7 edge in shots by the end of the first period. However, the Canes left for the lockerroom down 3-2 when Christian Thomas beat the buzzer, tucking the puck past Parks’ right side with 0.5 seconds left.

If the Hurricanes were demoralized at the first intermission, they didn’t show to start the second period. Both teams pushed the tempo in a quickly played period with very few whistles and lots of end-to-end rushes. New York’s J.T. Miller skated around Carolina’s Beau Schmitz (a defenseman=turned-forward in this tourney) along the left boards on one rush, while the Canes’ Justin Shugg showed his speed by circling around the net and firing a shot in the slot that almost beat Missiaen. The physicality of the game picked up as well the second stanza. The Rangers’ Carl Hagelin was dumped into the net on one rush into the Carolina zone, while Blueshirt bruiser Randy McNaught plastered Rask along the boards.

The Hurricanes tied the contest at 3-3 with 2:18 to play in the second – with Miller just stepping onto the ice after his interference penalty had expired – when Schmitz tipped Pitt’s shot from the right wing.

The Rangers had come out strong in the third period in their previous two games, and this clash was no exception. Powered by a vertically challenged line of Thomas, Audy-Marchessault, and Ryan Bourque (all listed at 5’9” in the program), the Rangers swarmed the Carolina zone and peppered Parks with 14 shots before Carolina’s 1st shot on net 8 ½ minutes into the frame. But Parks saw the puck well all game long, especially through the traffic in front of him on the penalty kill. Parks would finish with 38 saves in the contest. Miller tipped a pass just wide of Parks to the right of the net. While Faulk showed good hustle and stick work on the back check in keeping up with the Ranger offensive surge. Jared Staal threw his weight around, knocking into anyone with a blue jersey on. By the time the smoke had cleared, New York held a 23-5 edge in shots in the final 20 minutes of regulation, but none found the back of the net. The tournament was heading to overtime for the first time this year.

The tide seemed to swing in the Canes favor when Dylan McIlrath was whistled for a questionable hooking call just 48 seconds into OT. Missiaen stoned Carroll on a tip-in chance, and flashed the leather on Murphy’s blast from the left point. Despite a 7-1 edge in shots for Carolina, the first overtime solved nothing.

OT took a twist here in Traverse City, as the tournament employed Ken Holland’s proposed overtime format of 4 minutes of 4-on-4 play, followed by 4 more minutes of 3-on-3, with a shootout to follow if necessary. But Shugg ensured a shootout would not be necessary, when he scooped up a neutral zone turnover and beat Missiaen uncontested for an unassisted game-winning goal.

FINAL SCORE: Carolina 4, New York 3 (2 OT)

Despite the loss, the Rangers still earned a point in the standing and clinched first place in the Gretzky Division, which earns them a berth in the championship. Even though the Canes garnered their first win of the tournament, it was not enough to get them out of last place in the Gretzky Division, and puts them in today’s 7th place game.

Over on the Huntington Rink side, Tyler Shattock’s blast from just inside the blue line broke a 1-1 tie and helped give the St. Louis Blues a 6-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. The game was a contentious affair, with both teams amassing a total of 61 PIM. Between periods of the Rangers-Canes clash, I got to see the Shattock goal (scored with 5:31 to play in the first), as well as Stefan Della Rovere’s elbow to the head of the Stars’ Matt Fraser (who required assistance back to the bench, as he was surely seeing stars). Della Rovere was whistled for a 5-minute elbowing major, and had to drop the gloves immediately with Dallas’ Brenden Dillon (who wore the “C” for the Stars). Unfortunately, Dallas could not take advantage on the extended power play on that potentially momentum changing play. Jake Allen stopped 27 of 28 Dallas shots to earn the win, which places the Blues in the 3rd place game. Dallas will play for 5th against the loser of the Minnesota-Columbus game.

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