Carolina Hurricanes win 4th game in a row, 3-2 over N.J. Devils

It's now been a little over a month since Paul Maurice took over coaching the Carolina Hurricanes.  Slowly, bit by bit, pass by pass, the team has improved.  They are playing a more defensive brand of hockey, but at the same time, the offense is making more of a difference as well.  They are moving the puck better, the passes are crisper, the scorer chances stronger.  Overall, the team is doing something they couldn't do the first 2 months of the season, play a consistent 60 minutes of hockey each game.

Tonight's game saw all their patience and hard work come together as they beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2.  We got to the RBC Center early enough to go rink side to watch the warm ups.  The guys looked relaxed and even joked around a little.  Leighton checked one player (I think it was Eaves) into the boards during one of the drills.  Staal raced up behind LaRose and yanked on his jersey with a smirk on his face as to say "I'm faster than you".  You have to think they are feeling better about themselves as a team and individually than a month and a half ago.

The first period started out with a fast goal by Ray (aka Pinchy) Whitney.  That really got the crowd going.  The Canes defense shutdown the Devils and didn't give them many scoring changes.  The second period was much of the same, with a power play goal by Sergei Samsonov.  Going into the third period at 2-0, you really got the feeling that things were really starting to click for this team.  That we do have a chance at earning the points needed in the second half of the season to make a run for the playoffs.  The team continued to play well in the third.  Tuomo Ruutu got the winning goal off at the 9:58 mark.  There was a roughing penalty called on Justin Williams that looked questionable from our viewpoint.  The Devils scored on the power play.  They guys didn't give up though.  They kept up the pace, particularly during the Samsonov hooking penalty when Coach Sutter pulled the goalie.  Most of the power play was 6 on 4, but the Canes didn't give up a goal.  The Devils got another goal with 22 seconds left, but by then most the fans were on their feet and cheering for a great win by the Hurricanes.

One player that I'd like to point out is Chad LaRose.  He's been called the "Chuck Norris" of hockey and it's a well deserved nickname.  Shortly after the coaching change, he sat out a game as a healthy scratch.  People were mumbling about how his minutes had been cut.  But since the game he sat out, he has been pushing the limits and hitting everything in sight.  His determination has paid off.  He's moved up a line and is getting 17+ minutes a game.  IMHO, he's one of the most improved players of this team.  Though he's in good company.  Anton Babchuk has 4 points in the last 5 games.  Joni Pitkanen is playing more consistently.  And Ward, can't say enough about how awesome he's been playing.

So here at the half-way point of the season, I'm feeling good about these Carolina Hurricanes.  There's still a lot of hockey yet to be played, but I'm liking our chances.