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Recap: Hurricanes Can't Overcome Staal, Wild

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Minnesota

Jeff Skinner recorded a three-point first period, but the Carolina Hurricanes fell to the Minnesota Wild by a score of 5-3.

"You score to help the team win, so when you don't win it sucks," Skinner said.

→ Skinner had himself a first period. The 24-year-old winger recorded a beauty of a primary assist and then scored a pair of record-setting goals.

Video: CAR@MIN: Skinner earns three points in opening period

Jaccob Slavin hit Skinner with a directional pass off the boards in the neutral zone to spring a rush. Skinner then hit a streaking Lee Stempniak with a gorgeous cross-ice feed for the one-time goal, Stempniak's 16th of the season and 200th of his career.

"I guess it means you've been around awhile," Stempniak joked. "It's a nice number. You dream about playing in the NHL and scoring a goal."

Skinner's first goal came just three seconds into the Canes' first power play of the game. It was a rocket of a shot off a pass from Noah Hanifin that evened the score at two. It was Skinner's 34th of the season, a new career high, and the 177th of his career, which moved him into sole possession of second place on the Hurricanes all-time goal scoring list behind only Eric Staal (322).

With just 12 seconds remaining in what was a back-and-forth first period, Skinner struck again, this time pounding home a loose puck in the slot.

"He generates a ton of chances. He's either getting a shot or drawing a penalty. He's such a great skater and he's so elusive. He's able to handle pucks and get body position on guys very quickly. As a result, guys are reaching in or he's got the body position to get a good shot. He plays really hard," Stempiak said of his linemate. "He scores a lot of goals from in tight, in high-traffic areas."

"He's dangerous. He's slippery, and he's got a good release. He's a goal scorer, and he's got goal scorer's instincts," head coach Bill Peters said. "He's been playing real well here lately, and he's hot. Ride that hot streak while you can."

→ The difference in tonight's game was Charlie Coyle's rebound goal in the second period. Nino Niederreiter padded the Wild's lead in the third period, and Zach Parise, Jordan Schroeder and Niederreiter each scored in the first period, all of which were answered by Hurricanes goals at the other end.

"For us, that's not sustainable," Stempniak said. "We scored some timely goals."

"We were a little fortunate there. We weren't very good. I don't think we were ready to start on time, and they got it in behind us and did a good job establishing their forecheck," Peters said. "We could have been more competitive in some of those box-out situations."

"They were able to capitalize on some pucks that bounced to them," Skinner said. "It was a good job by us to respond. … We just couldn't seem to get the one after we tied it up."

Late in the second period, Cam Ward put in his bid for save of the year, when he dove across the crease and spun around to snag Jason Pominville's scoring opportunity out of midair. Pominville could only put his hands on his head and look to the Xcel Energy Center roof after Ward's incredible display of athleticism to keep the Canes within a goal.

Video: CAR@MIN: Ward spins around for fantastic glove stop

→ Longtime Hurricanes captain Eric Staal played in his 1,000th career NHL game on March 19, but the Wild waited to honor this milestone until the Canes made their lone trip of the season to Minnesota. It was a classy gesture, and the pregame ceremony was tremendous. After a congratulatory video, featuring his brothers and a collection of former teammates, played in-arena, Staal - joined by his parents, wife, kids and brother Jordan, of course - was presented with a number of gifts. Among them was a painting from local Raleigh artist Pete Sack, which illustrates and commemorates Staal's 909 games with the Hurricanes.

"It was pretty cool. It was cool to see the video. That's a huge accomplishment, one of many for him," Skinner said. "He meant a lot to me when he was in Carolina. It was a special moment."

Video: CAR@MIN: 'Canes honor Staal in his 1,000th game

After that, it was time to play hockey. The group of five that started for the Hurricanes - Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Cam Ward - featured the players that logged the most games with Eric. And yes, Hanifin's inclusion is accurate, which says a lot about how much the Canes' defensive corps has changed recently and just how young it is.

Staal recorded two assists on the night and was a plus-3.

→ A pair of noteworthy roster players for the Hurricanes tonight: Bryan Bickell skated in his first game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in early November, and 23-year-old forward Andrew Poturalski made his NHL debut.

Bickell logged three hits in 12:36 of ice time in his first NHL action since Oct. 30.

"You just think about all the thoughts and things you've gone through to get to this moment, and the people that reached out and helped with support," Bickell said. "It means a lot for all those people to get me to where I am now. I'm happy to be back here. I'll take it game by game and move on to the next one."

"I thought he was good. He moved well and skated well. He made some good plays," Skinner said. "That's a good story. It shows perseverance and mental toughness and everything. It's inspiring. It's cool to be a part of that and witness it firsthand."

"It's awesome. To know how hard he's worked and see him every day pretty quickly after his diagnosis, he was right back beginning doing basic exercises and body weight stuff. I don't say this lightly: it was an inspiration to see how much he cares and how hard he worked," Stempniak said. "Hockey is such an important part of our lives. I don't want to say you take it for granted, but I think you always think it's going to be there. To have it taken away like that is certainly difficult. It's a bit of a reality check for all of us. He's put in the work and had a great attitude. He's just been a great person in general, a great person to get to know. Just really happy for him to be back."

Poturalski notched a shot, a hit and a block in 12:10 of ice time.

"He looked a lot more poised that I ever did in mine. He made some good plays," Stempniak said. "It's always fun to see someone play their first game. Being from the same areas, there aren't too many guys who have made it to the NHL from Buffalo. He had his family here and his girlfriend, and I'm sure he'll never forget it. It would have been nice to get him a win and have a different atmosphere after the game."

→ The Hurricanes, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday night, will head to Raleigh for their final two home games of the 2016-17 regular season against the New York Islanders on Thursday and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. The season will then conclude on Sunday in Philadelphia.

"We're going to finish hard. We've got three left, two at home," Peters said. "We've got to do it right. We've done it right for a long period of time here, and we want to finish on a positive note with our effort and attention to detail."

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