It seems like the Carolina Hurricanes make a late-season playoff surge every other year. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but judging from the last month of action, that reflexive assumption seems to have at least some merit.
The Canes leapfrogged the Atlanta Thrashers into the Eastern Conference’s top eight with a dramatic home win tonight. Zack Bogosian scored a power-play goal to send the game into overtime and gain Atlanta at least one point, but Erik Cole scored the overtime winner on an end-to-end rush.
Carolina 4, Atlanta 3 (OT)
Cole should be commended for that effort, as he’s showing glimpses of his former power-forward-of-the-future self, but Ondrej Pavelec cannot be happy about the goal he allowed. Erik Erlendsson went as far as to compare Pavelec to KHL exile (and former Canes goalie) John Grahame on the play. Ouch.
Atlanta must be frustrated with this one, as the two teams produced a 2-2 third period despite the fact that the Thrashers out-shot the Hurricanes 14-3 in the final frame. Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien are probably the team’s MVPs this season, but the young goalie might have been a bit of goat tonight. It happens.
The Hurricanes and Thrashers are tied for 58 points, but Carolina has two games in hand and two mores wins (26 to Atlanta’s 24). That’s obviously a small margin of error – especially in a season brimming with maddening tide changes – but Eric Staal’s bunch have been trending up while the Thrashers are plummeting right now. Atlanta GM Rick Dudley might be wise to make a move or two to try to reverse his team’s backslide.
If Atlanta and Carolina engage in a two-team race for one of the last playoff spots, it could be an awfully fun contest to watch.