NEW YORK, N.Y. – The youngest player in the NHL took a ribbing from his Carolina Hurricanes teammates before his first game at Madison Square Garden.
“There is a lot of history in this building and the guys were really giving it to me, talking about it being my first game here,” Jeff Skinner said.
Skinner, the Hurricanes’ first-round draft pick who is 18 years, five months, made it a memorable evening with his first two-goal game Friday night to spark Carolina to a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.
Erik Cole scored the go-ahead goal on a power play with 3:59 left with Skinner playing a pivotal role in the score.
Skinner drew the hooking penalty by New York’s Brian Boyle that put Carolina on the power play. He then made the pass to set up a wide-open Cole for the winner.
“I knew when I went back there, the goalie was down,” Skinner said. “Fortunately, I got a good bounce when I threw it out front. Coles was in the right spot to finish the play off.”
And that first time in MSG?
“It was pretty cool,” Skinner said.
Tuomo Ruutu also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward made 40 saves.
“It was fun, this is Madison Square Garden,” Ward said. “It’s always fun to come out here and play. You see the goalie at the other end making the saves he was making, you really want to step up and match him.”
Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky scored for New York. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for the Rangers, 1-3-1 at home.
“We have to keep on fighting here and you can’t break apart,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We need to stay consistent and I think things will bounce our way, home or away.”
Ruutu scored the only goal of the first period as the Hurricanes regrouped from a slow start. It looked like a long night for the road weary Hurricanes who started the season in Europe and have played only one game at home in nine contests.
Ruutu connected on the power play with 4:31 left in the period, hammering home the rebound of Anton Babchuk’s booming point shot. It was only the second power-play goal for the Hurricanes in the last six games.
The Rangers dominated early, holding a 9-2 edge in shots. New York had a goal waived off about a minute in when the referees ruled Michael Del Zotto kicked the puck past Ward. The Rangers later hit a post and a crossbar before taking a pair of penalties that titled the momentum in the Hurricanes’ favour.
Ruutu cashed in the second man-advantage and Carolina finished the period with a 12-11 shot advantage.
Skinner took advantage of a lucky bounce to put the Hurricanes up 2-0 only 56 seconds into the second. As players battled for control behind the Rangers net, the puck bounced off New York defenceman Michal Rozsival’s skate and landed in the high slot where Skinner hammered it home.
Callahan and Staal both scored on the power play as the Rangers evened it at 2. The bounces went the Rangers way on Callahan’s goal as the puck hit him in the skate and popped in the air and he bunted it home at 4:06.
Staal connected at 12:24, but Skinner struck again 55 seconds later.
Staal turned the puck over at his own blue line and Skinner broke in alone on Lundqvist, showing forehand before whipping a backhander into the net putting Carolina ahead 3-2.
“It’s tough to think out there because it happens so fast,” Skinner said. “You have to use your instincts.”
The Rangers got final tally of the five-goal period as Dubinsky rang a shot off the post and into the net behind Ward at 15:43 to even the score at 3-3.
The Rangers outshot the Hurricanes 18-8 in the wide-open second period.
Both goalies were sharp in the third.
Ward stopped a point-blank stop from Derek Stepan midway through, and Lundqvist stopped Chad Larose on a 2-on-1 break and then stopped Cole on a close-in bid before he got the deciding tally.
“It is very disappointing,” Lundqvist said. “It was a pretty good game. I thought we played pretty well with a lot of chances both ways. Itwas a tough way to lose a game.”
NOTES: Lundqvist faced Ward for 14th time in the last 16 meetings between the two teams … Both teams will be back in action Saturday night. New York plays in Toronto, and Carolina returns home to face Pittsburgh.