Rookie Skinner scores in shootout to lead Hurricanes to 2-1 victory over Wild

HELSINKI – Rookie Jeff Skinner scored the only goal of the shootout to lead Carolina to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday, allowing the Hurricanes to sweep both of their season-opening games in Finland.

The 18-year-old forward also set up Carolina’s first goal from Tuomo Ruutu, who tied the game two minutes into the second period.

Cam Ward made 41 saves in the Carolina goal, stopping Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen in the shootout to preserve the victory.

“This was my second game, and a great way to finish that off,” Skinner said of his shootout goal. “First I was looking to shoot, but the puck was rolling on me and I tried to settle it down. It sort of opened up for me then.

“It’s pretty big,” Skinner added. “It has not really sunk in yet. So far I have a lot of memories from my first two games.”

Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu led his team with a strong showing in the offensive zone. Andrew Brunette opened the scoring late in the first period when he scored on a Koivu rebound.

Carolina was strong on the penalty kill. The Hurricanes were short-handed for 5 1/2 minutes during the second period, including a 30-second stretch where it was two men short. Ward was also solid in net, appearing unruffled by the regular crowding in the crease.

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Friday’s game was more intense than the night before, when Carolina won 4-3. A pair of early fights and a nasty altercation between Minnesota’s Eric Nystrom and Tom Kostopoulos of Carolina got the sold-out crowd of 13,465 into the game.

On the basis of the first two games, the swift, five-foot-10 Skinner could stick around for Carolina. The team has seven games to decide whether to keep him or return him to the juniors.

“I hope to stay,” Skinner said, “so I’ll work hard and take each game as it comes and be better every day.”

He was a bit intimidated by stepping into the NHL atmosphere at just 18 years old.

“But more by my first practice with guys as Cam Ward and Eric Staal than by the level of play itself. It was cool to be there with them. Just now I feel pretty comfortable,” he said. “I got two great players, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, who make the game a lot easier for me.”