Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/08/11 at 05:21 PM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes played the Panthers for the second time this week, and it had a familiar theme. The Panthers got off to an early multi-goal lead, then watched it evaporate. On Monday, the Canes stormed back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to force overtime and steal a point with an overtime loss. On December 15, the Canes overcame a three-goal deficit against the Panthers to win in regulation, stealing two standings points. Last night, they were behind 2-0 in the second, but scored five unanswered goals to run away with a win and two stolen points.
Rookie Jeff Skinner was by far the best player on the ice, with two goals, an assist, and a couple of skating clinics. Tuomo Ruutu had three assists and Erik Cole added two goals. The JET line wasn’t together for the whole game, but they collectively had eight (4/4) points.
Justin Peters got the nod in nets because Cam Ward came down with some “undisclosed” concern. He probably would have started anyway, but now it looks like he could get two starts in a row.
David Booth scored on a wrap play just 1:36 into the game, and it looked too easy. I had a feeling that it was going to be a long night in nets for #60. At 12:30, Marty Reasoner got a tip-in goal and the Panthers were up 2-0. Carolina looked flat, especially in their own end, and the Panthers were all over the scoring chances. There’s not much Peters could have done about the second goal, but the first one was just poor effort on his part. Fortunately, he pushed back and was extremely solid the rest of the way.
In the second period, Carolina had better legs, and they got on the board almost immediately with a lovely goal by the 18-year old Skinner. Ruutu was crunched hard by Booth along the right wall, but he made the nice dish to Skinner in the high slot. The talented skater turned defenseman Dmitry Kulikov inside out and he beat Tomas Voukoun with a nasty wrist shot for his twelfth goal of the season at 1:46 of the middle frame.
At 10:47, Skinner struck again by being in the right place at the right time. He got his stick on a shot, causing the puck to pop up and over Vokoun and into the net. Pat Dwyer and Ruutu assisted.
The second period ended with the score knotted at two, but Carolina wasn’t finished. As well as they played in the second, they looked even sharper in the third. The Captain notched his 20th goal of the season at 9:34, assisted by Zach Boychuk, who made a steal at center ice to set up the play.
Skinner made a veteran play to set up Erik Cole at 17:00 for the game-winning goal. He stormed down the ice with the Canes on a three-on-two break. He exploded down the right wing, made his “ten and two” move to confuse the defense, went all the way to the right post, then dropped a pass to the high slot, where Cole was all alone for a beautiful goal. Ruutu got the secondary helper.
Cole scored a short-handed goal into the empty net at 19:10, for the fifth unanswered goal to ice the game for the Canes.
Marty Reasoner scored a meaningless goal at 19:22 for the final score of 5-3.
Just 40 games into the season, Skinner has 31 (13/18), which matches Eric Staal’s rookie season total of 31 (11/20). He probably won’t catch the 68 (25/43) scored by Ron Francis in his rookie season with the Whale (in only 59 games!), but he’s already in good company. He will get much better and should be an elite player within a couple of seasons. It’s going to be a blast watching him evolve.
There’s no word out of Cam Ward’s camp, but it looks like his minor injury concern could keep him out of the starting lineup for one more game. They’re saying that even in a worst-case scenario, he’s available as a backup, and no callups from Charlotte will be made.
Carolina will be back at home on Sunday for a matinee with Atlanta. The Canes, who have earned points in six straight games, will be looking to climb within one point of the playoff cut.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.