NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff Skinner is providing a big offensive boost for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Skinner got his first career hat trick to lead the Hurricanes to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
He has five goals in his past two games.
Justin Faulk and Riley Nash also scored for Carolina, winners of its past two.
Mike Fisher and Viktor Stalberg scored for Nashville, which completed a four-game homestand 0-3-1.
Faulk scored the game’s first goal just 23 seconds after the opening faceoff with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec between the pads.
“Any time you can establish good play or good momentum early in the game, let alone a goal, is always huge,” Faulk said. “You don’t go into the game expecting to score on your first shift or your first shot on net, but obviously when you do that it kind of gives your team a little bit of a boost.”
Nashville tied it at 50 seconds of the second on Fisher’s goal.
Defenceman Victor Bartley fired a slap shot toward the Carolina net from the left point. Standing just to the left of the slot, Fisher tipped the puck over the shoulder of Carolina goaltender Justin Peters.
Bartley’s assist was his first point of the season.
“It’s been a long time since I had a point so that was definitely nice to get,” Bartley said. “Fisher did a great job getting on the net, and (Seth) Jones made a nice pass to me. We had some traffic and good things happened.”
Less than two minutes later, Stalberg gave Nashville the lead at 2:41.
Coming down the right side on a 2-on-1 break with Nick Spaling, Stalberg’s initial shot was turned aside by Peters, but he skated around the goal and swatted it into the net with a backhand for his third goal of the season.
Skinner evened the game at 2 at 6:11 of the second on a wrist shot from the right circle low to Mazanec’s glove side.
Carolina regained the lead at 11:51 of the second.
Just out of the penalty box, Ron Hainsey intercepted a clearing attempt by Nashville’s Roman Josi leading to a 3-on-1 break for the Hurricanes. Hainsey found Patrick Dwyer, who made a nice pass to Nash for his second of the season.
“That third goal, it was just a blatant turnover,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “That changed the whole game right there. It got them excited and it got us on our heels again.”
Nash’s score snapped a 19-game goal-scoring drought.
Skinner’s second goal came on the power play at 19:08 of the second when he ripped a slap shot from above the circle by Mazanec.
“The PP has sort of been struggling throughout the year, but I think the last couple of games we have sort of felt good about that,” Skinner said. “It’s always nice to get goals late in the periods, coming into the locker room with that good feeling.”
Carter Hutton replaced Mazanec in the Nashville goal at the start of the third period. Mazanec, who was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November, stopped just nine of the 13 shots he faced in 40 minutes.
Skinner completed the hat trick at 17:53 of the third with an empty-net goal.
“He’s shooting the puck,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “He’s a goal scorer when he shoots the puck. He can score when he gets those opportunities, so he’s working for it.”
Carolina’s Patrick Dwyer, Mike Komisarek, and Dryason Bowman all left the game with injuries and did not return.
Notes: Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne underwent an MRI on Thursday, and the results were improved according to general manager David Poile. Rinne will continue limited physical activity for the next two weeks and, if all goes well, will be able to advance to more strenuous conditioning later in December. “In a nutshell, the doctor is happy with the progress,” Poile said. “What he is recommending is two more weeks basically of rehab if you will. December 20th is sort of a target date to hopefully get him into more strenuous activity leading back to playing.” … NashvilleD Shea Weber missed his third straight game with an eye injury. The team announced that he would practice with the team Friday and return to the lineup as early as Saturday in Washington. … Mazanec has started Nashville’s past 12 games. Carolina C Eric Staal has points in three straight games. … The Hurricanes previous win in Nashville came Dec. 3, 2002.