RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes held off the Nashville Predators and posted a 2-1 win at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask scored for Carolina while goaltender Cam Ward earned his eighth win of the season, making 32 saves on the night.
Mike Ribeiro scored the Preds lone goal of the game late in the third while goaltender Pekka Rinne made 23 saves in the losing effort.
The one-goal margin of victory gave the Hurricanes their second win in their last three games
Carolina redeemed itself against the Predators, playing a steady and cerebral five-on-five game that eventually earned them the win over one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League’s (NHL).
Nashville, coached by former Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, came to Raleigh having won eight of its last 10 games, and was undefeated in its last four contests.
“Not only were we hangin’ with them, but we had every chance to win a hockey game,” Ward said.
“It’s a confidence boost we need. We always gotta’ play like that.”
Skinner scored his sixth of the season with 1:01 remaining in the first period by tipping in a wraparound backhand feed towards the net from Andrej Nestrasil.
Not having scored a goal in four previous games with 13 shots on net, the redirect was one of those types of goals that Skinner needed.
“You get a bunch of great chances and the one you least likely expect to go in – goes in for you,” Skinner said smiling.
“I’ll take those, especially right now. It’s a nice one to get in there.”
The finish was due to the work of Nestrasil, the Hurricanes’ newest addition as he tallied his second point (1g, 1a) in five games played with the team.
The Czech forward controlled the puck along the left side boards before sending it towards the low slot where Skinner was streaking and extended his blade to send the puck over the Nashville netminder’s glove-hand shoulder.
“I’m just tryin’ to read off him,” Skinner said when describing the play.
“He did a great job takin’ the puck down the wall and protecting it there. I was callin’ for it, so I don’t know if he heard me and just threw it there, but obviously a great pass by him. I just tried to get my stick on it there at that point.”
Skinner’s goal gave Carolina a 1-0 lead after being outshot 8-6 following the first 20 minutes of play.
Carolina managed to play just as steady a second period and outshot Nashville 13-10 while working within tight quarters.
“I thought both teams were real good,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“There was no room out there. Both sets of D were gapped right up. I didn’t think forwards had much to operate with, so you had to get heavy down low, you had to win some battles down low…That’s the kind of game it was.”
Rask scored his fourth goal of the year and his first game-winner of his career 55 seconds into the third period on a pass from Skinner.
The goal extended his current point streak to three games (1g, 3a) as his slap shot from the top of the left circle eluded Rinne as a result of being deflected by Preds defenseman Roman Josi.
“Yeah, it was tipped on the D-man,” Rask confirmed.
“I was just gonna’ put it on the net and I got lucky and it hit the D-man’s stick, and the goalie couldn’t react enough.”
Soon after, Nashville’s play became more desperate while trailing Carolina 2-0.
Mike Fisher tripped Nathan Gerbe and gave Carolina its first power play of the game.
Though coming into the game ranked ninth in the league with the man-advantage, the Hurricanes never put together any threat to extend the lead further as play continued.
Nashville took another penalty at 7:38 as Ribeiro was called for hooking and gave Carolina another man-up opportunity within five minutes, but the Hurricanes finished 0-for-2 on the power play.
With under five minutes to play and the Predators pressing, defenseman Justin Faulk tried a long clearing attempt along the boards from behind his net.
Josi intercepted it near the blue line and kept it in by dumping it towards the Hurricanes net where Ribeiro stood all alone.
Getting the puck under control, the Preds forward toe-dragged the puck to his backhand and undressed a sprawling Ward and beat him high to break the netminder’s shutout bid.
The game’s suspense was heightened as Carolina forward Riley Nash was penalized for tripping and gave Nashville the chance to tie the game with a minute to play.
Laviolette called a timeout to organize the Preds offense.
After Ward mad a save 29 seconds later, Peters called a timeout to organize the Hurricanes defense to preserve the one-goal victory.
Nashville eventually won the draw and Ward made three stops – a blocker save on Josi, a pad save on Shea Weber, and a glove save on Filip Forsberg – all in succession to force a faceoff with seven seconds to play.
The Preds gained possession of the puck and tried to get another shot on goal, but Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera made a critical block that denied the opportunity from making it to the net, and preserved the win for Carolina.
“It hurts right?” Peters asked when referring to his defenseman’s stop.
“You need those types of plays. They’ve got some guys on the back end that can shoot it. You gotta’ find shooting lanes and you gotta’ be willing to pay a price. It’s worth it though – that’s the beautiful thing in sport – it’s hard work and you gotta’ do it, each and every night. Reggie paid a price there. I haven’t talked to anybody, he’s a tough kid. That’s what it’s all about – finding ways to win as necessary.”
With three more games coming up from Thursday through Monday, the game’s first star was happy that his team pulled out a win over a top opponent at home.
“It’s nice to get off to a good start,” Skinner concluded.
“We’ve got a lot of home games here. We’ve talked about getting on a bit of roll and it’s a good first step.”
Notes: Skinner’s goal added to his total of nine points (5g, 4a) he owns in six career games played against Nashville…Coming into the game, Ward had finished the month of November with a 7-5-0 record and posted a 2.01 goals-against-average and .930 save percentage…Carolina finished 23-37 in the faceoff circle – winning only 38 percent of its draws against the Preds – well below its 53-percent success rate coming into the game.