Skinner scores hat trick, including winner in OT, and Hurricanes top Capitals 4-3

WASHINGTON – The Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals compressed most of their excitement into a four-minute span.

We score; you score. You score; we score. Sort of like one of those mini-games with the peewee players that are sometimes featured during intermission.

Both coaches were aggravated, to say the least, but Carolina’s Kirk Muller was in a better frame of mind about the whole thing because his team eventually won, taking a 4-3 victory in overtime Thursday night on Jeff Skinner’s third goal of the game.

“Yeah, it’s not what coaches are wanting to see,” Muller said with a chuckle. “Tonight it just looked like just whenever someone made a mistake, it was in our nets.”

With Washington’s Dmitry Orlov out of position, Skinner decided the game when he took a pass from Ryan Murphy to cap a 3-on-1 break at 1:20 of the extra period, giving the Hurricanes their second straight win after a five-game losing streak.

The goal seemed far removed from the whirlwind stretch early in the second period, when five players scored goals and Alex Ovechkin missed a penalty shot—all in 3 minutes, 45 seconds.

It was a brand of don’t-leave-your-seat hockey that’s become all too familiar for the Capitals, who have a knack this season for letting up after scoring a goal.

“I know it’s exciting for the fans,” said Troy Brouwer, who scored for the Capitals during the goal cavalcade. “I know it’s a fun game to watch, but we’ve got to be able to calm it down. Whenever we score a goal—we had a couple of big goals that put us ahead there—we’ve got to be able to build off that and make sure that we’re not giving them opportunities right away. It’s been a problem all year.”

Skinner’s second hat trick in less than a month gives him 19 goals for the season. Manny Malhotra also scored for the Hurricanes. With Cam Ward out with a lower body injury, Anton Khudobin made 38 saves in his first start since Oct. 13. Khudobin had been out with a lower body injury and was recalled Tuesday after a two-game conditioning assignment in the AHL.

Ovechkin, skating on a new line with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski, broke a four-game point-less streak with his NHL-leading 31st goal before missing his penalty shot. Brouwer and Steve Oleksy also scored for the Capitals, who have lost three straight and five of six.

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Philipp Grubauer, who has quickly emerged as the Capitals’ workhorse in goal ahead of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, started for the ninth time in 12 games and finished with 29 saves.

Skinner scored the lone goal in the first period on a 5-on-3—it was more like 5-on-2 1/2 because Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom had a broken stick—before Ovechkin opened the scoring in the second with a shot that was deflected by defenceman Ron Hainsey and fluttered past Khudobin.

Then back and forth they went. Malhotra for the Hurricanes. Brouwer for the Capitals. Ovechkin was dragged down by newly minted U.S. Olympian Justin Faulk and given a penalty shot, but Khudobin poked the puck before the striker could make an attempt on net.

Then Oleksy flung the puck toward the crease and watched it get deflected into the net for only his second goal of the season. Skinner got his second of the game when he put in a rebound to tie the score at 3.

By then, Capitals coach Adam Oates was all but fed up.

“Just mistakes. Mistakes. The guys that are on the ice are veteran guys,” Oates said. “We talked about the things we talked about this morning, the icing. Stupid icings when we don’t have to. We took a too many men penalty when we don’t have to. You know, one of the goals—(John) Erskine went in the zone and no one covered for him. That’s mistakes by veteran guys. They know better.”

Notes: Brooks Laich returned after missing 14 of 15 games with a groin injury. … With F Riley Nash (lower body) out, the Hurricanes recalled F Brett Sutter from Charlotte of the AHL. … Capitals D John Carlson was honoured during the first period with a video tribute for his selection to the U.S. Olympic team. Carlson is the first player in franchise history to represent the United States at the Winter Games.


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