The Carolina Hurricanes
are looking a lot like the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2006, rather than the one that didn’t make the playoffs last spring. Just ask the Ottawa Senators
Ottawa brought a perfect 5-0-0 mark into Thursday night’s game at the Scotiabank Place, but left with its first loss after Erik Cole scored twice and Chad Larose had three assists in Carolina’s 5-3 victory. Including the preseason, the Senators had been 12-0-0.
The Hurricanes are blowing away the bad memories of last season’s failures, largely by playing the same kind of aggressive forechecking game that helped them win the Cup less than 18 months ago.
''We've got to stop playing the opponent. We've got to start playing our game,'' Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “We've got great hockey players in there who are capable of good things on any night. Yeah, they have a good hockey team, obviously, but we’ve got a good team, too. We should just worry about ourselves.”
Cam Ward, the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, stopped 27 shots and Matt Cullen, Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal also scored for the Hurricanes, who improved to 3-1-1 overall. Carolina is 2-1 on a six-game trip that continues on Montreal on Saturday.
''It was definitely a nice win for our team,'' said Staal, whose empty-netter negated a late Ottawa rally. "When we're skating and we're playing that style of game that's up-tempo and everyone's jumping, I think we're a pretty tough team to beat.”
The Senators fell one game short of matching the best start in franchise history; they went 6-0-0 to start the 2006 season.
''They were working hard and they were really aggressive,'' said Gerber, a member of the Hurricanes’ title team before signing with Ottawa last summer. ''It was a tough grind. They really battled.”
Added center Mike Fisher: "We were facing a good team. We gave them far too many chances and odd-man rushes. We can't play our best every night I guess, but at the same time, we've got to play a lot better than that.”
The Hurricanes conceded that having Wednesday night off while Ottawa played at Atlanta was a benefit.
''Obviously they're a pretty good team, but they're maybe a little road weary from last night's game and last night's trip, so we're just going to take it as a pretty good effort from us,'' Cole said.
Carolina scored each of its first three goals off rebounds. Cole connected for a power-play tally at 17:33 of the first period. Cullen and Brind’Amour sandwiched goals around one by Dany Heatley for a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Cole’s second goal at 6:35 of the third period proved to be the game-winner after the Senators rallied on late goals by Mike Fisher and Joe Corvo. Staal’s empty-netter with 59 seconds left put the game away and handed the Senators their first loss of any kind this season.
"It's inevitable, obviously in this game, so we've got to get back on the winning ways on Saturday (in New York). That's our mindset," defenseman Wade Redden said.
Material from wire services was used in this report