Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/16/10 at 02:53 AM ET
On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes found themselves in an early 3-0 hole against the Florida Panthers, but they found a way to climb all the way back for a 4-3 regulation win. 18-year old Jeff Skinner had a lot to do with it. He was officially the second star of the game, but by my recollection, he was the best player on the ice.
I was out, ostensibly working, but in reality drinking a limited batch Sierra Nevada beer, so I didn’t watch the game live. I have a bad habit of checking the score, even when I’m DVRing the game, and I did that a lot early. I saw that Carolina had given up three goals in the first six minutes, and I didn’t bother checking any more after that. Much to my surprise, when I watched the DVR, I saw my boys climb the mountain and emerge with an improbable win. It came on the shoulders of Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and backup netminder Justin Peters.
Cam Ward, who had been blazing hot in goal in his last ten starts, had a bad night. In just 102 seconds, he allowed two goals on five shots and was replaced by Peters.
The Panthers got off to a quick start when Evgeny Dadonov scored his first NHL goal at 0:29 of the first. Deep in the Hurricanes zone, Canes center Brandon Sutter won a faceoff to Tim Gleason, who misplayed the puck. Dadonov picked up the puck in the low slot and beat Ward glove side. Marty Reasoner and Shawn Matthias were given phantom assists on the goal.
Michael Frolik tapped in a rebound of a Christopher Higgins shot at 1:42, and Cam Ward’s Night was over. Higgins’ shot from the left circle was stopped by Ward, but there was a juicy rebound into the slot, which Frolik took care of. Stephen Weiss had the secondary assist.
Bryan McCabe made matters much worse for the Canes when he cashed in during a five-on-three scenario with penalty killers Bryan Rodney and Chad LaRose in the box. At the 5:16 mark, McCabe ripped a one-timer from the top of the right circle, assisted by Dennis Wideman and Mike Santorelli.
Fortunately, Peters and the Canes were able to stop the bleeding and the first period ended 3-0.
Late in the first, Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner had a goal disallowed after the ruling on a close call was “incidental contact and interference with the goaltender”. No penalty, but an apparent goal was disallowed and it remained 3-0. There was contact, but it didn’t take place until the puck crossed the line. It was an unfortunate call that kept the Canes scoreless. Skinner would not, though, be denied. Twenty minutes of game play later, the youngster collected his first of two scoring points on the night.
Late in the second, after an important save by Justin Peters, the Canes stormed down the ice with an odd-man rush. Jeff Skinner went inside-out on the veteran defenseman Mike Weaver, making him look quite silly. After gaining a step on Weaver, Skinner’s shot from the left circle was stopped by Tomas Vokoun, but a juicy rebound was left in the low slot. Erik Cole was all over it, and buried the loose puck at 14:39 of period two. Eric Staal had the second assist. The play was all Skinner, who looked nothing like an 18-year old rookie.
The Canes were buzzing for the rest of the period, but it stayed 3-1.
Rookie defenseman Jamie McBain scored his first goal of the season at 7:02 of the third to make it 3-2. He fired a snap shot from near the half-wall on the outside of the right faceoff circle. The shot made it through the traffic out front and found the back of the net. Joni Pitkanen and Sergei Samsonov got the assists on the game-changing goal.
Tuomo Ruutu got the Canes all the way back at 12:20 on Carolina’s first successful power play in the last 20+ attempts. Young Jeff Skinner had a lot to do with it. While the Panthers were already shorthanded, Skinner forced Jason Garrison to haul him down and the Canes had 1:06 of five-on-three time. It took a while, but they were able to cash in with that advantage. Skinner fired a shot from the left circle that didn’t make it through, but Ruutu pounced on the rebound and took all the air out of the building with a game-tying goal. Samsonov had the secondary assist.
With momentum clearly on Carolina’s side, Vokoun made some very nice saves in the next couple of minutes, but he made a horrible mistake, gift-wrapping the game for Ruutu. After one of those nice saves, he tried to get too cute with his puck handling and made a pass right to Ruutu in the low slot. He made no mistake, ripping the puck past the former Predator for an unassisted goal.
The game ended just like that. 4-3 in regulation. It was an amazing display of team toughness, not giving up even when they were in a deep hole more than halfway through the game.
Jeff Skinner may have only been the second star of the game, but in my opinion, he was the best player. With 22 (8/14) points through 29 games, he’s back in the lead in rookie scoring and is continuing to make a case for himself in the Calder trophy discussion.
The Hurricanes will take their two-game win “streak” to Atlanta on Thursday night.
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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.