There aren’t as many wild, free-wheeling, high-scoring games in the NHL anymore, it seems.
But there was one Tuesday at PNC Arena. Free wheeling. High scoring. Wild.
When it ended, the Carolina Hurricanes had won 8-6 over the Vancouver Canucks, scoring six times in a scintillating third period for their seventh straight win on home ice.
“It was old-school scoring, I guess,” the Canes’ Jeff Skinner said, smiling. “It’s fun to watch. It’s fun when you’re on the right side.”
The Canes (12-11-6), after two periods, were on the wrong side. The Canucks, after falling behind 2-1 in the first, scored four second-period goals for a 5-2 lead.
But the Canucks’ Alex Burrows made a critical mistake in the final seconds of the period, grabbing Canes forward Joakim Nordstrom behind the Vancouver net. The holding penalty gave the Canes a power play to begin the third and then … all heck broke loose.
“We felt if we could get one, things could get rolling, and it did,” said Canes center Jordan Staal, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after being sidelined with a concussion and had the winning goal and an assist.
Skinner, who had a first-period power-play goal, picked up another one at 1:16 of the third. Make it 5-3.
“It just sort of snowballed,” Skinner said.
Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey whipped a shot through traffic for a goal. Make it 5-4 and the crowd of 11,721 — with Canes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. in the house — was alive.
“You can feel the buzz in the building” Staal said. “The other team tenses up. It's tough. I've been on both sides of it. When there's blood in the water, sometimes teams keep coming. That's what we tried to do.”
It also helped the Canes that Hainsey’s goal was officially reviewed at some length. That extra time allowed Peters to leave in the Victor Rask line, with Skinner and Derek Ryan, and Rask promptly scored off a Ryan pass to tie the score 5-5
A goal by Justin Faulk, his first in 18 games, at 5:56 finished off a frenetic first six minutes of the third. The Canes were in front 6-5.
That ended the night for Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, who was lifted for Jacob Markstrom. In net for the Canes was Michael Leighton, who had relieved starter Cam Ward in the second period as Carolina coach Bill Peters said he simply was looking for a spark.
The Canes kept pushing. Staal, who had missed the past seven games, scored off a rebound for a 7-5 lead at 12:38 of the third.
Former Canes forward Brandon Sutter banged in a shot for the Canucks, who were ending a five-game road trip. And the Canes' penalty killers, ranked No. 1 in the NHL again were tested.
The Canes killed off an Elias Lindholm penalty in the final five minutes of regulation. The Canucks (12-16-2) soon pulled Markstrom for a sixth attacker, but Lee Stempniak’s empty netter in the final minute clinched it for the Canes.
Peters said the Canes were “leg-less” the first two periods, perhaps still feeling the effects of their West Coast trip last week. Staal’s first shift lasted 96 seconds, and Peters said the puck seemed like “a 10-pound weight on our stick.”
Sebastian Aho did score off the rush in the first for Carolina, and Skinner had his first power-play score. But the Canucks got a pair of goals from Sven Baertschi and built the 5-2 lead.
The Canucks had beaten the Canes seven consecutive times, winning 4-3 in overtime in Vancouver, back in October, when the Canes couldn’t hold a three-goal lead. This time, the Canes had the big comeback.
Rask and Faulk each finished with a goal and two assists, and Ryan earned three assists. Elias Lindholm, back after missing five games with a lower-body injury, had a pair of assists.
“It was fun, but it’s not a game we want to play very often,” Skinner said, still smiling.