Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Habs Stillmanated

The talk in between the third period and Overtime was that it would take an ugly goal to bring a decision to game six of the Montreal-Carolina series, and an ugly goal it was. As Cory Stillman’s shot from just inside the blue line deflected off of the stick of Craig Rivet, changed direction and avoided Christobal Huet’s grasp.

Game, set and match for the Hurricanes who changed from a light breeze in games one and two into a full fledged storm by game six. Finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, the Hurricanes took the game 2-1 and won the series 4 games to 2.

With Cam Ward in the nets for the four straight Hurricane victories, the cause of the rookie goaltender was given wide coverage and Ward did not let down the side. He once again stood on his head to keep the Canadiens from scoring in the third period as Montreal finally recaptured some of the form that put a scare into the East Division’s second seed in games one and two.

Huet deserved a better fate than a misguided deflection to end his remarkable end of season and playoff run. Both he and Ward put on a terrific display of goaltending through the series and especially in the pivotal game six showdown.

Sheldon Souray scored for the Canadiens in the first period giving them a short lived lead, thirty seconds later Mark Recchi tied the game up and that’s where things remained until one minute and nineteen seconds into the overtime when Stillman scored.

For Carolina the victory indicates a return to the kind of speed and pressure they exhibited earlier in the season and what propelled them to second place in the east, after the wake up call of game two they rebounded nicely and with Ward tending to the nets they never seemed to falter again.

Montreal gave it as good a shot as they could, but the injury to Saku Koivu in game three seemed to take some of the drive away from the Habs. To their credit they stayed with the Canes til the bitter end, but once Carolina had taken the lead in the series you could see the momentum swing heading in the direction the Hurricanes. It was a game that featured hit posts, wild scrambles in front of the net and some hard hitting that at times resembled a rodeo on ribbon day. It was playoff hockey at its best, with two teams not leaving much on the bench by the time the hand shaking was done.

Carolina rests now for a few days and then begin the unenviable task of taking on the suddenly hot New Jersey Devils and all world goaltender Martin Brodeur. The match up presents an interesting exchange of talent in the nets, the long standing veteran with many Stanley Cup victories to his credit, against the now rising you talent who somehow doesn’t seem to know fear.

It should make for a fascinating series.

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