Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/29/10 at 10:33 PM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes traveled to Madison Square Garden to play the Rangers on the front end of a back-to-back set. 18-year old Jeff Skinner, who was Carolina’s first round pick in this summer’s draft with the seventh overall pick, had a massive night for the visiting team. He had two goals and an assist, including a real highlight reel play for his second of the game and third of the season.
All four goals came from the second line of Skinner/Tuomo Ruutu/Erik Cole, and that trio also added four of the seven assists. With play like that, they might become the top line.
Carolina got off to a good start, cashing in on a power play chance at 15:29 of the first. Ruutu from Anton Babchuk and Jamie McBain.
Skinner put the Canes up 2-0 early in the second with fresh ice. Cole worked hard behind the net to get it to Skinner, right on the doorstep for the chip in. Skinner from Cole and Erik Staal at 0:56 of the second.
The rest of the second period was pretty wild, with a lot of end-to-end action, and the Rangers controlling play for most of the period. In the middle stanza, the Rangers registered 18 shots on goal compared to eight for the Hurricanes. Where it really counts, the home team put up three goals to Carolina’s two.
After the Rangers had hit a couple of posts and had a first period goal waved off, they finally got on the board at 4:06 of the second on a power play goal from Ryan Callahan. It was a bit of a crazy bounce, but it was a well deserved goal on a hard-working power play. Artem Anisimov and Michal Rozsival got the helpers.
On their second power play chance of the second, they also cashed in. Defenseman Marc Staal scored his second of the season, hitting the post and going in. That goal came at 12:24, assisted by Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov. It knotted the score and brought life to the building, but it didn’t last long.
Jeff Skinner was sprung on a breakaway after Ruutu forced a neutral zone turnover. In alone, he made Henrik Lundqvist move to his right. Skinner, who is a left shot, took advantage of the down and out goaltender, pulling the puck to his backhand and roofing it past the Swede into the vacant right side of the net. The time of the goal was 13:19, and Ruutu had the only assist.
The second goal by Skinner showed a remarkable amount of poise and maturity from the youngster. I’m really excited about his game, and he should be a major contributor for several years.
Brandon Dubinsky scored an even strength goal at 15:43 to again level the score. This is how the second period ended, and the third wasn’t nearly as exciting as the second. The ice was sloppy, so both teams were struggling with bouncing pucks and choppy ice, but it is, after all, Madison Square Garden.
It was beginning to look like the game was headed to overtime, but Carolina’s second line struck for the fourth time. Skinner was trying to bank one if off Lundqvist from an impossible angle, and the lively rebound went to Erik Cole on the doorstep. He got two whacks at it, and the second one found the back of the net. The game-winner was marked at 16:01 of the third, with assists coming from Skinner and Ruutu.
The “JET” line, as Tripp Tracy wants to call it (Jeff, Erik and Tuomo) accounted for all four goals and four assists. While the other forward lines have been modified, this one has been left alone. And for good reason.
The Rangers lifted their goaltender, and that raised hopes that Skinner would be able to complete the hat trick, but that opportunity didn’t arise, and the game ended 4-3.
After nine games, Skinner has seven (3/4) points and is tied with Eric Staal for the team lead. This game is the point of no return in terms of what to do with Skinner. There is absolutely no way that he’s going to be shipped back to his junior team, so his professional contract will officially kick in on Saturday night against the Penguins. Those Penguins are also playing a back-to-back, and they lost at home on Friday.
Expect Cam Ward to remain in nets for the Hurricanes on Saturday, but Marc-Andre Fleury could get the night off.
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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.