RALEIGH — After coming off back to back loses against the Boston Bruins, the Carolina Hurricanes bounced back Thursday night and snapped their two-game skid by defeating the New York Rangers at the RBC Center, 4-1. Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner both had a goal and an assist in the win.
Despite a rash of injuries, the Rangers came out firing from the start. Unfortunately for John Tortorella’s team, it was to no avail. New York applied a lot of early pressure on Cam Ward and the Hurricane defense, but the Carolina netminder was up to the challenge. Ward thwarted the Rangers attack time and time again in the early part of the first period, allowing his team a chance to gain composure and regroup.
Ward made 39 saves in total, showing why he was recently selected to play in his first All Star game.
“I was trying to do my best in controlling my rebounds and limiting second chance opportunities,” said Ward. “I don’t mind giving up shots as long as they aren’t quality chances.”
The ‘Canes drew first blood 5:39 into the first period courtesy of LaRose’s 10th goal of the season. Skinner gained possession in the neutral zone, split two defenders, and chipped the puck to LaRose, who got just enough of the puck to slide it past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
“It’s exciting to play here; our fan’s are great,” LaRose said. “Coach has been giving us some good speeches getting us going before the game, and we went and did it and it felt good.”
The Hurricanes scored again 14:43 into the first when Jussi Jokinen tipped in a Joe Corvo slap shot. Jokinen continued his stellar play tonight, and has become one of Carolina’s most valuable players during their recent surge. The Finnish winger now has 12 points in the last eight games.
At 4:41 of the second period, Brandon Sutter fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist to up the ‘Canes lead to three. A beautiful timing pass by Russian forward Sergei Samsanov set up the play. With the New York defensemen playing high in their own zone, Samsanov passed the puck to his linemate just as he crossed the blueline, giving Sutter a clear path to the net.
Sutter’s goal was his first since Decemer 16th in a game against Atlanta — a span that lasted 16 games.
“It has been a while…a long time coming,” said the Huntington, New York native. “It’s nice to get a slump out of the way. Now I can move on and get a little confidence back.”
Brandon Prust got New York on the board midway through the third period by firing a wrist shot past Ward. Ranger fans in the crowd celebrated, but it was too little too late.
With 4:09 remaining in regulation, Skinner put the game out of reach, scoring his 17th goal of the season off a pass from LaRose.
Combined with his high hockey I.Q., Skinner continues to plays the game without fear. His assist on the first goal exemplifies his audacity and willingness to sacrifice his body. The 18-year-old rookie drove hard to the net, lowered his shoulder, and showed no hesitation.
A candidate for rookie of the year, Skinner once again displayed excellent speed, puck control, and vision against the Rangers. He may only be 18-years-old, but the 2010 first round pick plays with intelligence that is typically only found in experienced veterans.
“Part of being an athlete is wanting to be better, and after the last two games I don’t think anyone in here was really happy with the results,” Skinner said. “To go out there and get the right results today was big for us.”
Following the game, Coach Paul Maurice was proud of the way his team played.
“What I thought you saw tonight was a real good look at the leadership of our room,” he said. “Everyone played hard.”
Closing in on 1,000
With Thursday’s victory, the Hurricanes picked up their 999th regular-season win in franchise history. 504 of those wins occurred when the team played in Connecticut as the Hartford Whalers.
The ‘Canes will attempt to win their 1000th game on Saturday when they visit Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.