Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes won their first home game of the season with an exciting 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in front of a sellout crowd.
Jeff Skinner was within a thread of scoring a hat trick when he wound up like Wayne Gretzky and took a hard slap shot with .3 second left on the clock in the second period into a crowd in front of Henrik Lundqvist. The shot made it into the net with about 2500 of the free hats going onto the ice as it did appear Skinny did indeed get the hat trick.
Upon further review, the puck barely glanced off Bryan Bickell’s sweater for the official goal. The fans were so excited the hats kept flying over the glass and with just a fraction of a second left, the officials actually dropped the puck with the RBC crew still bagging hats on the ice.
Skinny Starts His Run
The Rangers scored first on Mats Zuccarello’s power play goal that was somewhat questionable. First, Mika Zibanejad tried to bank a shot off Cam Ward’s back but Wardo was able to shuffle the puck out of the crease.
The Rangers picked up the loose change and tried to stuff it in but Ron Hainsey flattened Zibanejad on top of Ward covering his head and stick. Ward made no attempt to get up and with the puck sliding out to Zuccarello inside the left faceoff circle, he just needed to pick a spot in back of the net as it was wide open.
Just four minutes later the Jeff Skinner show started. Skinny handled the puck through three defenders at the blue line, went left then took a shot that Lundqvist block to the backboards. Skinny picked up the puck, went behind the net and with Victor Rask in the high left slot, banging his stick for the puck, Skinny glanced over to Rask then sent a sweet wrister into the far left corner to tie the game.
The Almost Hat Trick
Skinny didn’t cool down in between periods. Rask won the faceoff to Ward’s left back to Jaccob Salvin. Slavin tipped the puck to Brett Pesce who started up ice. Just as Pesce got to his blue line he sent a long pass to Skinny at the Ranger’s blue line.
With Kevin Klein all over him, Skinny went to the right then sent a wicked back hander from 18 feet out that fooled Lundqvist to put the Canes up 2-1 with only 33 seconds gone in the second.
Just over midway in the period, Zuccarello got his second of the game after taking a long pass from Ryan McDonagh behind the Canes defense burying the shot five hole. Very late in the period, with the Canes on a rare power play, is when Skinny did his magic and put the Canes up 3-2 with the goal that wound up being Bickell’s.
No doubt Bickell would gladly have that goal given to Skinny for an official hat trick but the Caniacs in attendance, including several taking advantage of the CaryCitizen.com game special, over ruled the NHL and made their statement about the hat trick.
Canes Protect The Lead
After losing the first two games of the season in overtime with three goals leads, it was good to see the Canes protect the lead while still playing aggressive hockey. There was no turtle type defense but “when in doubt, get the puck out of the defensive zone” was something that was drilled in during practice and followed.
Despite the questionable goal and the breakaway, Ward played a solid game with several key save. Solid win and a great way to start off the home season. This team is very young, very fast and extremely talented. This all adds up to an exciting year ahead and the best chance of making the playoffs in years. I wouldn’t be surprised in GM Ron Francis makes another move before too long to shore up some additional beef and scoring up front.
Junior Was In The House
One other highlight for the home crowd was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sounded the siren and met with the media in between periods. After listening to him, I can see why he’s been voted the most popular driver 13 times. He’s an outstanding and humble young man with a very good head on his shoulders.