Rookie Jeff Skinner scored two goals, drew a key penalty late in the game, and earned the game winning assist on the ensuing powerplay as the Carolina Hurricanes outlasted the New York Rangers, 4-3 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. It was the first multi-point game in Skinner's NHL career.
Cam Ward once again was on top of his game and made key save after key save at various points in the contest when the Canes had trouble clearing their zone. Ward finished with 40 saves on 43 New York shots.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a powerplay tally by Tuomo Ruutu at the 15:36 mark of the first period. Anton Babchuk had his head up and made a perfect (fake shot) pass to the Finn, on a play he probably would not have made two years ago. Jamie McBain picked up the secondary assist.
Less than a minute into the second period, Skinner would score his first on a bang bang play set up by Eric Staal behind the net. Staal out-battled his brother Marc for the puck and flicked it to the front of the net. Skinner was in the right place at the right time and knocked the puck past Henrik Lundqvist before the goalie knew what happened.
Lundqvist also played a very strong game and made 34 saves in the losing effort.
With a 2-0 lead the Canes may have taken their respective feet off the gas for a bit as the Rangers really dominated much of the period. It seemed like they held the puck in the Canes zone for minutes at a time at stages of the game as the young Carolina team struggled mightily to clear the puck. Ward had been making point blank saves from all angles but finally succumbed as Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal each scored powerplay goals for the home team.
With the score tied 2-2, Ruutu made another nice play, diving for a loose puck at the Ranger blueline. The puck squirted loose and Skinner jumped all over it as he broke into the clear. He deked one way and faked another, then backhanded a beauty of a shot over the New York goalie as Lundqvist lay sprawled on the ice, helpless to stop it.
The rookie looked like he had ice water in his veins as his move was one that vets would be proud of. Paul Maurice said after the game that he was "moving in five different directions" on the play.
The goal gave the Hurricanes the lead once again, but once again, they could not hold it. Brandon Dubinsky scored another for the Rangers in the second period to tie things up before intermission. The blueshirts outshot the Canes 18-8 in that period and scored all of their goals then.
Both teams had plenty of chances in the third period, but both goalies held firm until Skinner drew a hooking call with just 5 minutes and change to go. The Canes had killed an earlier powerplay in the period when Jay Harrison was whistled on a tough holding call.
The Hurricanes put a flurry of shots on Lundqvist, then a rebound eventually bounced to the corner. Skinner chased down the puck and threw it back at the net. The rebound came right out to Erik Cole who wristed in the game winner.
The team hopped on a plane right after the game to return home for a matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. The Pens also played Friday night and lost to the Flyers, 3-2. We will have a game preview up after the morning skate on Saturday.
Quick hits and stats:
- Faceoffs were better for the team, especially down the stretch as they seemed to win more often as the game was on the line. Staal won 59%, (13 of 22), Ruutu won 50%, (7 of 14), Sutter won 25%, (5 of 20), and Jokinen won 100% (2 of 2). In all, the team finished at 42%.
- The Ruutu, Cole, Skinner line dominated and accounted for 8 points in the game. Skinner had 3 points, (2G 1A), Ruutu had 3 points, (1G 2A), and Cole had 2 points, (1G 1A).
- Ruutu led the team with 6 shots on goal. Sergei Samsonov was next with 5. Later in the game, Maurice moved Chad LaRose to the Sutter/Kostopoulos line while Samsonov moved up with Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen.
- The Rangers blocked a total of 22 shots while the Canes blocked 12. Tom Kostopoulos led Carolina with 3, including a key block while killing a penalty in the third period.
- The team was credited with 37 hits. Jay Harrison and Ruutu led the way with 5 each. (Proving he can still be physical at the center position.) Staal and Pitkanen each had 4.
- The Canes went 2 for 4 on the powerplay, but allowed 2 goals out of 5 chances for the Rangers.
It was a solid road win for Carolina. They will hope to do the same at home, starting tomorrow night.
Attached are some post game interviews: