The Carolina Hurricanes have developed quite the home ice advantage. With last night's win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Canes have improved to 14-4-1 on the season at PNC Arena, and 13-1-1 since November 12. The win kept the Canes three points behind the Flyers for the final playoff position in the East.
The Canes came out slow in the first period and got outshot 13-8 and went to the locker room down one. Jeff Skinner made sure that didn't last, scoring two quick goals to make the game 2-1 and the Canes didn’t look back after that.
Brock McGinn was determined to not be outdone by Skinner and also scored two goals of his own. The first goal was a beauty set up by Elias Lindholm, who took the Sabres to dangle-school, and dished to McGinn who went backhand, top shelf to make the game 3-1. His second goal came in the third period to make the game 5-2. Victor Rask also scored a goal in the third off of a Noah Hanifin missed shot.
Jeff Skinner Isn’t the Hero we Deserve, he’s the Hero we Need
Remember over the last few years people were saying the Canes should trade Skinner? Yeah, that was funny.
Skinner scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season just 55 seconds apart in the second period. The first goal appeared to sneak through Anders Nilsson, but the second was a pure snipe from 53.
In the third period Skinner recorded a helper on Victor Rask’s goal to record his 300th NHL point, and his fourth three-point night of the year. Over his career Skinner has 158 goals and 142 assists. Not bad for a 24-year-old.
Cam Ward Starts Number 600
It’s great to see Ward getting to 600 starts and it’s great to see the fanbase coming back around on the 2006 Conn Smythe winner. Though goalies can't be captains, it's clear that Ward’s emotions and play drive the team in front of him. Many fans wanted to give up on Ward and were confused by his signing this offseason.
Ward’s .915 sv% doesn’t blow anyone away, but he has had the ability to steal games this season, something that over the past couple years was not possible. There were multiple times tonight that Ward bailed the team out. The first was in the first period off of Jaccob Slavin’s second bad turnover. Ward shut down Zemgus Girgensons on a mini breakaway. The second was in the middle period just four minutes in. Ward scrambled to get across the crease and put up a double pad stack to stop a sure goal.
Canes Escape with a Win Despite Huge Mistakes
The Canes started the game a little shaky with a Slavin turnover which directly led to a goal off of the Sabres first shot of the game. This wasn’t Slavin’s only mistake in the period, he also turned the puck over in the neutral zone but Ward was able to bail him out. It was an uncharacteristically rough night for the usually reliable Slavin, a reminder that he's playing at a consistently high level despite only being 22 and prone to occasional off nights just like any other NHL player his age.
The only other goal that the Canes gave up came in the second while on the power play. Ward misplayed a puck behind the net and Brian Gionta was able to scoop up the puck and score on a wrap-around to make the game 3-2. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only short-handed opportunity the gave up. In the third period the power play unit game up three more breakaway chances, but Ward was able to stop all three.
This type of play hasn’t been typical for the Canes this year, but it’s never good when you give up more scoring chances on the power play than on the penalty kill, and stood out even more glaringly against the league’s worst penalty kill.
The game was fun to watch and it was great to see the Canes get rewarded for being the better team all night. Though the game against the Blue Jackets had a favorable result, the Canes were mainly lucky to face the organization’s third string goalie.
The game last night was a hard fought win that wasn’t in doubt midway through the second period. The Canes kept on the pressure and didn't retreat into a shell and that paid off.
The next step for the Canes is a game tonight against the Metro basement dwellers, the New York Islanders. The Isles are coming off of a win of their own last night against the Panthers. The Canes will look to go four for four this homestand and move to within one point of the Flyers