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Skinner steals show as Canes edge Rangers

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- Jeff Skinner proved Friday night that even teenagers can shine under the bright lights of Broadway.

Carolina's 18-year-old rookie, the youngest player in the NHL today, turned in a two-goal, three-point night and drew the penalty that led to the winning goal in his first career appearance at Madison Square Garden to help the Hurricanes solve a mostly spectacular Henrik Lundqvist in a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers.

It was the first multi-point game of Skinner's career, which is now all of nine games old.

"Before the game I told him, 'This is your first game at MSG, there's going to be a lot of people watching and they came to watch you, so you better put on a show,' " Carolina captain Eric Staal told "He did. He wanted to put a stamp on the fact that he was playing here all year, and he did."

Skinner scored twice in the second period and set up Erik Cole's power-play winner with 3:59 to play in regulation.

First, he drew the hooking penalty on Brian Boyle that led to the power play. Later, he gathered the puck behind the goal line, not far from the corner, and put it on net. Lundqvist (34 saves) was able to get a piece of it, but the puck came out to Cole in the high slot and he banged it in for a power play goal.

Tuomo Ruutu won the faceoff from Brandon Dubinsky and got himself in position to shoot from just inside the blue line. Lundqvist pushed the shot aside but Skinner smartly got deep and was able to make the play to set up the goal.

Carolina won 7 of 10 faceoffs over the final 5:22 of the game.

"The only thing that tells you he's 18 is the fact that he doesn't have to shave," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said of Skinner. "I don't think of it ever when I put him over the boards. He's just a really gifted player, but it's his compete level that's the difference. He stays on pucks, fights down low. He's the opposite of a perimeter guy. He's in the dirt all the time."

Maurice couldn't stop smiling when he was talking about Skinner prior to the game. He was asked if MSG would bother him, if playing in the world's most famous arena would get into his head.

"That's the beauty of a young team," Maurice said. "These guys still think planes are awesome."

Skinner had to think the flight home was awesome. He was getting chided by his teammates before the game about making his Garden debut, but in the dressing room afterwards some of them were heard chanting his name and his number.

"It was pretty cool," Skinner said with a smile that could light up Broadway.

Skinner was so good that he stole the show from Cam Ward and Lundqvist.

Ward made 40 saves, including three at point-blank range on Alex Frolov in the first and Brandon Prust and Derek Stepan in the third. Lundqvist made 34 saves.

"I certainly did feel (the goalie battle going on). It was fun," Ward told "This is Madison Square Garden and it's always fun as a player to come out here, and when you see the goalie on the other end making the saves he was making, because he was great, it makes you really want to step up your game to not only match him but do better. Fortunately, Colesy was able to get that big goal and we can go home feeling happy."

The Rangers leave for Saturday's game in Toronto feeling a bit empty, yet still content despite losing back-to-back home games this week.

"I am really happy about a lot of things with our team, but there are some things we still have to work on to be a better club," Rangers coach John Tortorella said, referencing the in-zone defensive coverage as tops on his list. "We did a lot of good things. I still think we have to close up our neutral zone, our gaps need to be better, defensively we still have to work on things, but I'm not unhappy with the work ethic of the hockey club tonight. We did a lot of good things that way."

However, the Hurricanes, specifically Skinner, took advantage of the Rangers when they were vulnerable.

Skinner gave Carolina a 2-0 lead only 56 seconds into the second period when after coming on the ice he found the puck on his stick in front of the net and he got it off quick to beat Lundqvist.

The Rangers struck back with power-play goals from Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal to even it up at 2-2 with 7:36 to play in the second period, but Skinner struck again only 55 seconds after Staal beat Ward with a short-side blast from the left circle.

Ruutu split Staal and Michal Rozsival with a poke check, sending the puck up to Skinner. He gathered it near the inside hash marks on the left side, faked a forehanded shot, deked to his backhand and roofed the puck over Lundqvist's catching glove to make it 3-2.

"That breakaway goal, if you watch it on video and slow it down, he was moving in about five different directions at the same time against maybe one of the best breakaway goalies in the game," Maurice said. "It was pretty impressive."

Added Ward: "It's unbelievable, just fun to watch. An 18-year-old kid putting on a move like that against one of the best goaltenders in the League like it was no big deal. I'm sure we'll see that on the highlights for a while, and I'm sure it won't be the last time we see that from him."

It wasn't a dagger, though. Far from it.

Only 2:24 after Skinner scored his second goal, Dubinsky took a cross-ice saucer pass from Callahan and from inside the right circle rifled a shot that whizzed by Ward's catching glove. It was 3-3 heading into the third period and the goalies would take over for a while with some dazzling saves and tremendous poke checks.

The way things were going, it was going to take a dirty goal off a rebound to win this game and that's exactly what the Hurricanes got.

Cole got the credit for it, but Skinner made it happen.

He made it happen all night at the Garden.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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