Teams that use that strategy against Jeff Skinner might be playing with fire.
After a third period altercation with the much larger Cory Sarich, Skinner stood up for himself, gave as much punishment as he took and ultimately scored the shootout winner in a wild 6-5 home victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Skinner, who was selected to participate in the All-Star SuperSkills competition earlier in the day, also added a first-period assist on Tuomo Ruutu’s goal and extended his lead in the league’s rookie scoring race with his 33rd point.
“That part of the game helps me,” said Skinner of his rough-and-tumble third period that included a shoving match with the 6-foot-4 Sarich and a boarding penalty that shook up the Flames’ Curtis Glencross minutes later. “When I’m playing on the perimeter I’m not really as effective, and getting in those dirty areas and maybe taking a hit or two really gets me involved more in the game and sort of wakes me up in a way.”
“You have to protect yourself,” said Hurricanes’ coach Paul Maurice. “I just loved his response to that because he’s a skilled, offensive, brilliant player and he’s going to draw more and more of that as it goes. He’s not going to say, ‘I’ll wait until the next one before I get upset or this isn’t going to be my game.’ He might just run you and then score the shootout winner. This guy is alright.”
Other than successful returns from injury by forward Jussi Jokinen, who logged 2 goals and an assist in his return from a six-game absence, and goaltender Cam Ward, who was a perfect 3-3 in the shootout, that may have been all Maurice loved from a sloppy game that saw the Hurricanes give up a 5-2 lead before salvaging their second point in the shootout.
“That’s a game where both coaches need a shower right after because you just do not feel good about yourself at all,” he said.
“Tonight wasn’t the greatest game, but you’ve got to find ways to win because you can’t be perfect every night,” said Ruutu.
Erik Cole and Eric Staal had the other Carolina goals, back-to-back tallies in the second period that chased Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and made the game 4-2, extending personal streaks in the process. Cole now has 4 goals in his last three games, while Staal’s six-game points streak (3g, 3a) matches Joni Pitkanen’s November run for the team’s longest of the season.
Despite the offensive outburst that saw 11 other Canes record 1 point, Jokinen was the only player on the home side to find the score sheet multiple times in a more-than-productive comeback from his lower-body injury. He even had a chance to win it with just seconds left in overtime, but Calgary backup Henrik Karlsson made an outstanding point-blank save.
“I haven’t missed too many games in my career, so it’s tough to come back and you don’t know what kind of shape you’re (in),” said Jokinen, who was stopped by Karlsson in the shootout. “I’ve worked pretty hard off the ice, and it’s not fun but it pays off when you come back like that.”
Although entertaining, the game may not have been a technical masterpiece. None of the game’s three goaltenders emerged with sparkling statistics, but Ward was at his best with the game tied late in the game, as he made a big save on Calgary’s Olli Jokinen late in the third period before shutting the door in the shootout.
“He’s been out a little bit and he’s been off for a few days, but he wasn’t giving this one up,” said Maurice of Ward, who is headed to his first All-Star Game later this month. “That’s the feeling I had from the bench.”
With the win, the Hurricanes have now earned points in eight consecutive games dating back to their win in Toronto on Dec. 28, posting a 6-0-2 record in that span. They also find themselves just three points back of the division rival Atlanta Thrashers, with three games in hand, for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference
NOTES: Former Hurricane Tom Kostopoulos did not get the chance to play against his former team, as he was serving the first of a six-game suspension … With his 520th career game, Staal passed Sami Kapanen for sole possession of seventh in franchise history. Erik Cole (517) tied Niclas Wallin for ninth … Cole needs four penalty minutes (372) to become the Hurricanes’ all-time leader … Staal needs three points to tie Rod Brind’Amour (473) as the Hurricanes’ all-time leader … Carolina trials the all-time series 18-37-7. Calgary has just one win since the Hurricanes franchise moved to Carolina, on Dec. 14, 2007 … Entering the game, Kiprusoff was 4-0-0 with a 1.18 goals-against average in five career games against Carolina … Jarome Iginla recorded his 500th career assist with his helper on Bouwmeester’s opening tally.