If only the Carolina Hurricanes could string together some road wins.
The Canes have proven throughout the season they’re a tough out at home, at PNC Arena, and did it again Saturday in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
Jeff Skinner scored two goals and nearly had a third, Jordan Staal had a goal and assist and goalie Eddie Lack was sound again in net with 27 saves for the Canes, now 21-10-4 at home this season. Carolina (30-27-12), which topped the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Thursday, has points in six straight games overall.
“It’s our game, the way we want to play,” Staal said Saturday. “We’re playing good hockey. We’re playing quick and moving the puck and using our puck speed and our legs. It’s a young team that still learning.”
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The Canes, after Saturday’s game, were seven points out of playoff position with 13 games remaining. While their playoff chances remain minuscule, the players and coaches insist they will push to the end and see how it unfolds.
To get closer, the Canes must win on the road – now. The next four games are away from home, beginning Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Consider that the Canes have a 9-17-8 road record. Carolina was 16-16-9 last season and no playoff team had a road record that was below NHL-.500.
The Predators (35-25-11) should be in the playoffs for a third straight season under coach Peter Laviolette. But Laviolette, who coached the Canes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, came away impressed Saturday with the Canes’ play.
“They were quicker than us, they worked harder,” he said. “They got themselves a lead, they made it difficult to generate offense. Their speed was a factor when they play as fast as they did.”
Staal gave the Canes the lead 29 seconds into the game, redirecting a Jaccob Slavin shot past goalie Juuse Saros – the Canes’ quickest goal of the season. Skinner then pushed the lead to 2-0 in the first, ripping a shot after Lee Stempniak’s strong forecheck and setup pass.
Lack, who played tall in net against the Wild, did it again Saturday against a second Central Division team. Viktor Arvidsson beat him with a sharp-angled shot in the second period, and Filip Forsberg scored his 29th goal – his 13th in the past 13 games – after the Preds pulled Saros for a sixth attacker in the final three minutes of regulation.
The Canes’ Victor Rask was called for slashing on the Forsberg scoring play and the Preds continued to push, but Elias Lindholm’s shorthanded empty-net goal with 1:26 left in regulation gave the Canes a two-goal margin.
Lack made some timely saves in the third, turning back shots from Calle Jarnkrok, Colin Wilson and Ryan Johansen.
“I thought he was really good,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “He looks solid.”
Skinner’s second goal came when he went to the net, got position on defenseman Ryan Ellis and backhanded the rebound of a Slavin shot past Saros. The winger has 25 goals for the season and the multi-goal game was the 25th of his career, more than any other player his age in the league.
Skinner was denied a fifth career hat trick when his shot found the metal during a third-period power play. .
But it wasn’t all about offensive chances and Lack in net. Peters said defenseman Justin Faulk may have played his best game of the season and the pairing of Faulk and Slavin made a lot of hustling, effort plays that can turn games.
“We need to keep building on the good things,” Skinner said. “We’re on a nice little run here and want to keep it going. In order to do that we have to keep playing the right way.”
And find a way to win road games.