Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

Skinner notches hat trick as Canes beat Capitals in OT

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 2, 2014 

— Jeff Skinner began 2014 just as he ended 2013, by scoring goals.

The Carolina Hurricanes again followed his lead.

Skinner’s goal at 1:20 of overtime Thursday gave the Canes a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals and gave the winger his second hat trick of the season.

Skinner’s overtime goal came off a three-on-one rush as defenseman Ryan Murphy carried the puck into the offensive zone on the right wing and found Skinner crashing the net against defenseman Mike Green.

“He sort of threads it through the guy’s legs and I just sort of had to put my stick there,” said Skinner, who now has 19 goals this season. “It bounced off my stick and went it. It was a heck of a pass and great play by him.”

The Hurricanes (16-16-9) were looking to build off a 5-4 comeback victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the third and won 5-4 in overtime. They also were looking for a rare three-game sweep of the Caps (20-15-6) this season at the Verizon Center and seeking to climb the standings in the Metropolitan Division.

“This tightens things up a little bit,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

The Canes had a different look. Goalie Anton Khudobin made his first start for Carolina since an ankle injury Oct. 13 and was steady enough with 38 saves.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, obtained in a trade Wednesday with Toronto, was in the lineup. Paired with Murphy, he was used on the power play and penalty kill.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game for us,” Muller said. “We slugged it out and grinded. It wasn’t pretty but we found a way to win a hockey game.”

Skinner’s power-play goal, on a 5-on-3, was the only score in the first period. Things quickly heated up in the second, creating stress for Khudobin and Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer.

Alexander Ovechkin tied the score on a bullet of a shot 49 seconds into the period. Manny Malhotra quickly countered for the Canes, scoring off the rush 55 seconds later, but Troy Brouwer’s goal off a rebound for the Caps made it a 2-2 game.

Defenseman Steve Oleksy’s quick shot from the left circle gave the Caps their first lead, 3-2. But Skinner answered 40 seconds later with his second goal, banging in a rebound.

Make it five goals in the first four minutes, 34 seconds of the period.

“Sometimes it happens,” Khudobin said of the offensive flurry. “You just have to regroup and refocus.”

Ovechkin had nine shots and ended a four-game goal drought by scoring his league-leading 31st. Later in the second, he was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down by defenseman Justin Faulk on a breakaway but Khudobin made a pad save.

“Huge save,” Muller said. “It broke the momentum they were building.”

Speaking of building momentum, Skinner has been torrid. He scored 12 goals in the month of December, including the two power-play scores on New Year’s Eve that fueled the surge against Montreal.

“He’s an opportunist, he’s finding the holes now,” Muller said. “Not only is he scoring but he’s scoring big goals for us.”

Skinner’s first career hat trick came Dec. 5 in a road game against Nashville. Now he has two, although he shrugged it off.

“It’s a big win for us, especially coming off that emotional win last game,” Skinner said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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