The Carolina Hurricanes got Jeff Skinner back in the lineup Sunday, so that was a plus.
Jussi Jokinen scored a goal, his first in 25 games. Make it another plus for the Canes.
But losing to the Washington Capitals stung. And especially losing on a goal by a 20-year-old rookie defenseman who had never scored in the NHL.
The Caps emerged with a 2-1 victory at the Verizon Center, taking the lead early in the third period on Dmitry Orlov’s unlikely goal.
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Orlov managed to get the puck past goalie Cam Ward at the near post after Jason Chimera bounced a shot from the left wing toward the net. Jokinen got a piece of the puck, but it skid to Orlov for a quick shot.
Skinner made his long-awaited return after missing the past 16 games recovering from a concussion. It was the first game action for last year’s Calder Trophy winner since Dec. 7, when he took an open-ice hit from Andy Sutton of the Edmonton Oilers.
Skinner got plenty of ice time and centered a line with Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky. He flashed a few moves, took a few hits, forced a Caps penalty and worked hard, even though he did not factor in the scoring.
Skinner just missed on a shot with 3:40 left in regulation that would have tied the score 2-2. Moments later, he had a few heated words with veteran defenseman Dennis Wideman, showing he was fully engaged in the game.
Playing less than 24 hours after a bruising 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins at the RBC Center, the Canes again had Ward in goal and again were hooked up in a scoreless first period in which Carolina had a 13-4 shooting edge.
The Caps had an apparent goal by Brooks Laich waved off in the second period – Laich being called for incidental contact as he crashed into Ward while muscling the puck in. But Washington soon took the lead.
Alexander Semin, who has found the net often against the Canes in his career, did it again. Semin ripped a bullet of a shot that found the top corner at 16:57 of the period – Semin’s 11th of the season and his 27th goal in 38 career games against Carolina.
The Canes countered as Jokinen found the net for the first time since Nov. 20. His goal with 17 seconds left in the second tied the score 1-1, Jokinen banging in the rebound of a Ponikarovsky shot after Anthony Stewart kept the puck alive around the net.
That was the only goal Tomas Vokoun allowed although the Canes outshot the Caps xx-xx. The Canes put bodies in front of Vokoun and had their offensive chances, whacking and tipping pucks, but couldn’t tie the score.
Against the Bruins, the Hurricanes rallied for three third-period goals. They couldn’t repeat it Sunday against the Caps, who have won seven straight on home ice.
Eric Staal’s five-game point streak came to an end for Carolina. So did the Canes’ modest two-game winning streak.
The Hurricanes travel to Pittsburgh for a Tuesday game against the Penguins. That will be their third game in four days – and Skinner’s second game in three.