Just when all seemed lost for the Carolina Hurricanes, it wasn’t.
Just when it seemed the Canes might lose another shootout, they didn’t.
While the playoffs may still be a long shot for Carolina, the Canes still have a shot.
In a game Tuesday that had a playoff feel to it, especially late, the Canes managed to squeeze out a 4-3 shootout victory over the stunned Ottawa Senators.
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Stunned? When the Sens came to PNC Arena in early November, Jeff Skinner scored with 3.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and the Canes won in overtime.
On Tuesday, Skinner scored on a shot from the slot with two-tenths of a second remaining in the third period, with the Canes using an extra attacker and desperately buzzing around the Sens net. It was Skinner’s second goal of the game and had Canes fans howling.
“It was a little later this time,” Skinner said, smiling. “We’ll take it.”
After a freewheeling overtime, it was on to the shootout. Canes goalie Cam Ward has struggled in shootouts in the past, but was determined this time would be different.
The Sens’ second shooter, Mika Zibanejad, scored on Ward. Riley Nash, up third for the Canes, had to score to extend the shootout and did, and Ward stopped Mark Stone.
Canes coach Bill Peters then sent out defenseman Jaccob Slavin, a rookie, for his first career shootout attempt. After roofing a slick backhander against goalie Andrew Hammond, Slavin will have more.
Slavin’s goal left it up to Ward to deny Zack Smith, whose shorthanded score with 34 seconds left in the second period gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead. Ward did, and the Canes (30-26-11) were celebrating their first shootout win of the season after three losses.
Could Slavin be the Canes’ new “Secret Weapon,” the moniker once owned by sneaky scoring defenseman Nic Wallin?
“He might be because it definitely was a secret up until tonight,” Ward said. “The trick’s out of the bag now.”
Added Skinner, “He’s making us forwards look bad with those hands.”
Since a 5-2 loss to St. Louis Blues on Feb. 28, when captain Eric Staal was traded hours before the game, the Canes have gone 2-0-1. They still believe a playoff berth is possible, even though they went into Tuesday’s game six points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the chase for a final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Every time you come to the rink you just want to get two points,” Skinner said. “That’s our focus.”
The Canes trailed 2-0 after a sloppy first period as Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for the Sens. But Peters, Ward said, was firm in his message at the intermission break.
“We were embarrassed and the guys wanted to respond,” Ward said.
Peters wouldn’t reveal exactly what was said but noted it was “truthful.” It worked, as Skinner scored his first of the night and Jay McClement tied the score at 2 with a hustling shorthanded goal, the fifth “shortie” of the veteran’s career.
Many contributed. Forward Brendan Woods, playing his third NHL game, dropped the gloves to fight Sens tough guy Chris Neil in the first. Defenseman Ryan Murphy had a pair of assists and defenseman Michal Jordan had a plus-3 game.
The Canes, after six first-period shots, had 18 in the second and finished with 37. The Sens had 11 shots in the first, then 12 over the two periods of regulation.
“Slow start to the first but I thought we really took over and starting playing like ourselves,” Peters said.
After the Canes pulled Ward for a sixth attacker with two minutes left in regulation, the Sens had a couple of near-misses on long attempts at the empty net. Then Skinner scored again, his 25th of the season.
In the shootout, Ward said he was determined to “shut the door.” He did.