With their playoff hopes on the line, the Carolina Hurricanes’ youngest player came through to lead them to victory. Rookie Jeff Skinner scored the tying goal in the third period and the winner in the shootout to lead the Canes past the Washington Capitals 3-2. It was the Hurricanes first triumph over the Capitals in six tries this season.
The win, combined with the Buffalo Sabres regulation 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs pulled Carolina to within three points of Buffalo in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Goalie Cam Ward was also vital to the Canes win, making 38 saves including both Washington attempts in the shootout. Ward came up especially big in overtime when his club was outshot 5-0. He also kept Caps star Alex Ovechkin off the scoreboard in his first game back from an undisclosed injury including a save late in the game with the butt of his stick.
Ward knows his club faces long odds to qualify for the playoffs, but is sure they aren’t giving up. “We realize the hole that we’re in and the adversity we’re facing,” he said. “But there is that belief in the locker room that if we just take it one game at a time, we’ll have a chance here and there’s no better group to do it with. We still believe we can.”
Jussi Jokinen got Carolina on the board just 2:29 into the second period with a tap in from the slot. Joe Corvo set up the power play goal with a perfect pass from behind the net.
Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson scored 3:17 apart late in the second period to give Washington a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes and put the Canes backs against the wall.
That was when Skinner came through to tie the game just 1:46 into the third period. He let go a shot that wasn’t very hard but dipped enough to get past Caps’ goalie Semyon Varlamov.
“This Skinner kid’s a pretty special shooter,” Coach Paul Maurice said. “So before I qualify that shot as not real strong—he’s put enough by goalies from strange angles, that now you just accept it and say maybe he saw it.”
The Hurricanes held on to force overtime and then the shootout where Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu scored while Ward stopped Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom to clinch a huge win for Carolina.
The Canes don’t have much time to celebrate the victory. They return home to host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
About the Author
Written by Brad Kurtzberg
Hockey writer for more than 10 years. Has been published on Fox Sports, MSG Network, Huffington Post and Inside Hockey. Wrote the book, "Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team" on the old California Golden Seals and is presently working on his second book.