One strong period was all the Hurricanes needed Monday night as they welcomed the Winnipeg Jets to the RBC Center for the final game before the All-Star break. The Canes beat Jets goaltender Chris Mason on two of their first four shots, and those markers held up as the Canes won 2-1 on the strength of goals by Jeff Skinner and Tim Brent in front of 16,045 on Teacher Appreciation Night.
Mason, who had played some outstanding hockey against the Canes earlier in the season, didn't have luck on his side to start the night. Jeff Skinner, skating up ice with Zac Dalpe on a 2-on-2, attempted to thread a pass across the crease to Dalpe, but the pass was blocked by Ron Hainsey. Fortunately for Skinner, the puck bounced right back to him, and he backhanded it easily into the net over a fallen Mason at 3:55, who had overcommitted in an attempt to play the pass.
The Canes' second goal was also a stroke of good fortune. Anthony Stewart won a battle along the near boards and fed Tim Brent, who took a shot from no angle that deflected off Mason's left pad and into the net at 9:28.
From there, the Canes seemed to settle into cruise control mode, at times playing loosely with the puck and showing some fatigue from playing three games in four nights.
Winnipeg made it 2-1 at 13:47 of the second, when Tobias Enstrom feathered a pass through two Canes defenders and right on the stick of Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood one-timed it in Stamkos-like fashion from his knee in the far circle past Cam Ward, who had another entry into his ledger of recent solid performances with a 29-save effort.
Chad LaRose, playing in his second game since returning from an upper-body injury on Saturday, suffered a lower-body injury early in the second period when the Jets' Chris Thorburn inadvertently cut him on the leg with his skate blade. LaRose did not return to the game, leaving Eric Staal to double-shift on the fourth line alongside Brent and Stewart. Coach Kirk Muller seemed to be a bit optimistic about LaRose's prognosis in the postgame press conference, but it's a distinct possibility LaRose will miss more time after the break.
The Jets controlled play for the final 40 minutes, outshooting the Canes 11-0 in the first eleven minutes of the third period. Staal nearly made it 3-1 about four minutes into the period, though, with a great deke move that drew Mason out of position, but his backhand attempt hit the outside of the near post and the Jets dodged a bullet. Ultimately, the Canes only mustered two shots in the final period, and Ward turned away fourteen Jets chances to preserve the win, including two after Winnipeg coach Claude Noel pulled Mason with 1:20 remaining.
Defenseman Jay Harrison, second only to defensive partner Justin Faulk in ice time with 24:47 tonight, said the break is coming at a good time for the Canes. "Let's get everybody back and healthy, rested and ready to go. The way we're rolling is great if we had a few more in a row, but at the same time you never turn down rest in an 82-game schedule."
For his part, Muller is looking forward to doing a bit of work for the state tourism department during the break, as he's looking forward to visiting the state he's in. "It will be nice to see more of Carolina than just my apartment and the rink. I'm hoping I can get around and see more of the state."
- The Canes improved to 7-1-2 in the last ten games in which they've scored the first goal, and are 13-6-5 overall when they score first.
- Wellwood's goal was the first goal Ward allowed at the RBC Center since January 14 against Boston, a stretch of 112:26 which included Friday's shutout against Washington.
- The Canes' two shots in the third period matched a season low first set on December 18 in the third period of a game at Florida.
- Skinner now has goals in two straight games and was easily the Canes' best player on the ice against the Jets. He was stoned by Mason on a second-period breakaway, and nearly set up Andreas Nodl for a goal of his own with a gorgeous saucer pass a few minutes later that Nodl whiffed on.
- The win was the Canes' first home regulation win against the Winnipeg franchise since they beat the Thrashers 2-0 on January 31, 2009, nearly three years ago. They were 2-4-1 since then at the RBC Center, with both wins coming in overtime. A far cry from the days when the Thrashers couldn't buy a win in this building, no?
- Postgame audio: Jay Harrison, Jeff Skinner, Cam Ward, Kirk Muller
First period: 1. CAR, Skinner 14 (Gleason) 3:55; 2. CAR, Brent 6 (Stewart) 9:28. Penalties: Ruutu, CAR (boarding), 0:51. Shots: CAR 7, WPG 6.
Second period: 3. WPG, Wellwood 9 (Enstrom, Antropov) 13:47. Penalties: Jokinen, CAR (tripping), 6:36; Oduya, WPG (interference), 16:14. Shots: WPG 10 (16), CAR 7 (14).
Third period: No scoring. Penalties: Slater, WPG (holding), 10:35; Tlusty, CAR (tripping), 20:00. Shots: WPG 14 (30), CAR 2 (16).
Power plays: CAR 0-2 (0%), WPG 0-2 (0%). Referees: VanMassenhoven, St. Laurent. Linesmen: Cherrey, Gibbs. T: 2:16. A: 16,045.
Next up: The Canes get a week off and get back on the ice on Monday, January 30 to prepare for the next night's game against the New York Islanders.
Post game interviews: