The Carolina Hurricanes
still have a playoff pulse, and they have Jeff Skinner
to thank for it.
The rookie forward scored a goal and converted his shootout attempt to lift the Hurricanes to a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
Skinner tied the game at 2-2 less than two minutes into the third period when his seemingly innocuous shot knuckled past Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov.
"I was just trying to get it on net," Skinner said. "There was just a little bit of space there so I just took it in and tried to put it on net, and luckily it went in."
Skinner then scored on the first attempt in the shootout, and Tuomo Ruutu ended the game by beating Varlamov in the third round.
"This Skinner kid's a pretty special shooter," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "So before I qualify that shot as not real strong -- he's put enough by goalies from strange angles, that now you just accept it and say maybe he saw it."
The Hurricanes entered the game ninth in the Eastern Conference, five points behind Buffalo for the final playoff spot. Carolina made up two points on the Sabres with the win; Buffalo lost 4-3 at Toronto.
Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Hurricanes, and Cam Ward made 38 saves through 65 minutes before stopping by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the shootout.
Alexander Semin scored his 27th goal and had an assist, and Marcus Johansson also scored for Washington, which ended a five-game home winning streak. The Capitals had won the first five meetings between the teams this season.
"We have to be able to compete and beat any team that's going to come hard, because everyone is going to be fighting for their lives in the playoffs," Washington defenseman John Carlson said. "I feel like at some points in the game we were just coasting a bit instead of pushing the envelope and that's what bit us in the end."
Ovechkin was back in the lineup after missing three games due to an undisclosed injury -- he hadn't played since March 18 due to what Washington coach Bruce Boudreau termed a "nagging ailment." Ovechkin made his presence felt right away for the Capitals, getting the team's first shot on a backhanded attempt in the opening minute. He didn't shy away from contact throughout the game, getting several hard hits in on the Hurricanes.
"It was pretty hard when you come back after three games sitting out," Ovechkin said. "But every shift, every period I felt better and better."
Carolina opened the scoring on Jokinen's power-play goal at 2:29 in the second period. Joe Corvo set up the goal with a pass from behind the net, and Jokinen poked it in.
"I think we were a much better team in the third period, and I think we deserved two points tonight," Jokinen said.
The Hurricanes had a chance to extend their lead when Chad LaRose was awarded a penalty shot after being held up by Dennis Wideman on a shorthanded breakaway. Varlamov denied LaRose by poking the puck off his stick.
Washington tied the game at 14:18 in the second period, when Semin threaded a tight-angle shot from below the right circle over Ward's shoulder. A little more than three minutes later, Johansson got behind the Hurricanes' defense after a pass from Semin and made a move on Ward for his 13th goal of the season.
Capitals center Jason Arnott also returned to the ice after missing six games with a lower-body injury.
"We still have a lot to play for," said Boudreau, whose team leads the Southeast Division by six points over Tampa Bay and trails Philadelphia by three in the race for first in the Eastern Conference. "We're not, by any stretch or means, taking a vacation until the playoffs."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report