The Carolina Hurricanes were able to end a long run on ineptitude in South Florida, knocking off the Panthers with a thrilling 4-3 victory that saw them rally from an early 3-0 deficit.
The regulation win was Carolina’s first since Nov. 26, when Cam Ward shut out the Boston Bruins 3-0. Here are five observations on Wednesday's win.
1. What more can be said about rookie Jeff Skinner that hasn't already been said following last night's performance? Plainly put, the 18-year-old winger was the best player on the ice and on several occasions made the Panthers look foolish in their attempts to stop him. Teamed with Erik Cole and Eric Staal, Skinner seems to have solidified a top line that can create a scoring threat every shift.2. It was good to see Justin Peters finally rewarded with his first win of the season. As Tuomo Ruutu said following the game, Peters is a hard worker who is liked by his teammates. His record and statistics do not reflect how well he has played as Ward's backup this season. He made key saves to help Carolina get back into the game, but the defense also gave him the assistance Ward did not get in his brief time in net.
3.Carolina had plenty of chances from its secondary scorers, most notably Ruutu (two goals) and Sergei Samsonov (two assists). The fourth line was again a factor — give Troy Bodie an honorary assist on Jamie McBain's second period goal — and Jiri Tlusty and Jussi Jokinen both had good moments.
4. While they started slow, the Carolina defense came around and made a huge impact on the game. Not only did McBain finally get his first goal of the season, but Tim Gleason — who had a few "ewww" moments early — was again a physical force for the Canes with a team-high seven hits. Gleason and Joe Corvo teamed up to help keep the Panthers off the scoreboard the final 54-plus minutes, and Joni Pitkanen played well in both ends of the ice in more than 27 minutes of ice.
5. On the other hand, Bryan Rodney's return to the NHL was a shaky one. The defenseman took the first of two penalties that led to Florida's third goal, a 5-on-3 tally, and overall seemed a little off in his first game with the Hurricanes since April. Rodney played just 9:14 as Maurice and his staff relied on the team's other five blueliners, a situation they surely would have liked to avoid given that the Thrashers are on tap for Thursday. With the second half of a back to back looming, Rodney will need to prove he can log more significant minutes against Atlanta to keep the D fresh.