Believe it or not, there were other contributions to the sports world tonight besides Tyler Hansbrough’s usurpation of the UNC all-time point holder title. Justin Williams scored his first of the year and Joe Corvo scored a beautiful goal-scorer’s goal in overtime to carry the Hurricanes over the Panthers in overtime. It was the resurgent Corvo’s second game-winner in as many games.
The ‘Canes have taken a lot of points from Florida over the years, spanning all the way back to 2002, but as a certain Emerald City resident once said, this is a horse of an entirely different color. Despite trading away the cornerstone of their offense, Olli Jokinen, in the offseason, the Panthers now sit three points behind the Hurricanes with a game in hand and are battling for Southeast supremacy.
Williams’ marker came on the power play at 14:52 into the first period, his first since Nov 23, 2007 at Tampa Bay. He spent all but a handful of games since then on injury reserve, but he came back in a big way tonight. A few minutes later, the puck drifted menacingly toward the goal line with Tomas Vokoun far out of the net, but somehow a Florida player swatted it away and avoided a 2-0 deficit. The play was not reviewed.
Tim Gleason took on Florida’s Gregory Campbell in the second in what quickly turned into more of a throttling than a fight. Although they were evenly matched physically – Gleason stands at 6’0, 217 pounds and Campbell at 6’0, 194 pounds – Gleason seemed to dwarf Campbell, getting in a few left hooks and pinning him twice with ease before the referees broke it up.
The score remained 1-0 going a few minutes into the third period until familiar face Cory Stillman came out of the penalty box on a two-on-Cam Ward breakaway and although it looked as through Cam Ward made the save, he was forced back into the net and the puck trickled out from under him.
Shortly after Stillman scored, Brandon Sutter was absolutely brutalized behind the net and decided to stick up for himself. After receiving two hard checks and then being shoved into the boards multiple times by Noah Welch, Sutter looked around to see if the referees would take action. When they let it go, Sutter seemed to say to himself, ‘okay, fine, I guess I’ll have to deal with this this!” and took on Welch. It was an awkward fight – few fists were thrown, and they seemed more content to ‘hug it out” – but it was Sutter’s first fight, and he and Welch each received five minute majors for their efforts.
Although the Hurricanes outshot the Panthers 37-20, the game headed into overtime. In the final minute, Joe Corvo tore up the ice and was tripped up by a Panther, but remained on his feet with the puck in his control. He crept in, faked a shot, pulled the puck to his backhand, and with all eyes on him, wristed a shot underneath Vokoun. The usually stoic Corvo, whose game celebration two nights ago included a small circle and an almost-invisible fist-pump, let loose and allowed himself to be mobbed by his teammates.
Eric Staal was held off the scoresheet on his bobblehead night, but he was on the ice for 21 minutes and had four shots on goal. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, strangely enough, lead the team in shots on the night with six.
Ray Whitney notched the primary assist on both goals.
The Hurricanes will now embark on a four-game road swing that will take them all over two countries. The team will face off against the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins two Saturdays in a row, and although the ‘Canes have experienced a lot of success against the Bruins in recent year, it’s the same with the Panthers – this is an entirely different – and downright scary – team. But the Hurricanes, now 3-1-3 since Paul Maurice took the reigns, are looking better with each passing game.