Home! A capacity crowd welcomed Jeff Skinner and the Carolina Hurricanes to Raleigh’s PNC Arena Friday night for their home-opener versus the New York Rangers. The pregame festivities and excitement built into a crescendo of enthusiasm in anticipation of hockey finally being back, and hopes that the ‘Canes would put together a winning effort. NASCAR even joined in the fray, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sounding the pregame hurricane siren to get the party started.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 29, 2016
Skinner, who was questionable with a mid-body injury, showed up strong. Unfortunately, for the 18,000-plus in attendance, the party got started by the Rangers, with Mats Zuccarello scoring a power-play goal at 8:31 of the first period. The goal had two parts and two chances to count. The play blew up in front of ‘Canes goalie Cam Ward, who snagged it off of the line and swatted it away. But, the scrum continued, with defenseman Ron Hainsey landing on top of a Ranger and Zuccarello slapping it by a sprawling Ward. 1-0 Rangers.
Skinner was on fire throughout the beginning of the game, answering the Rangers at 12:34.
It what was a night that had many reminiscing about the glory days of former Calder Trophy winner. Skinner has insane natural ability and can be an offensive force when he is healthy. I’ve written how his multiple concussions had the effect of seeming to make him hesitant to charge the net. That was not the case against the Rangers.
Skinner and Zuccarello traded tallies again in the second period, which stayed at 2-2 until the last possible second. And then the ‘Oops’ happened.
Hats Off to Skinner!
On a late period power play, the Hurricanes were swarming around Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. ‘Canes defenseman Bryan Bickell was lingering in front of the goal, when Skinner blasted a shot at 19:59. The puck sailed in and the hat trick celebration was on. In fact, the home-opener promotion was ‘hat night’ and ‘Canes lids were in full supply. Fans began to launch them toward the ice in recognition of Skinner’s third goal. The only problem was that the puck deflected off of Bickell:
Hats were everywhere on the ice, now for no reason. The good news for the home team was that they had a 3-2 lead going into the intermission. The bad news for the hat-tossers was that the free hat they had received a little over an hour before was now being collected off of the ice. By the way, they were quality lids, with Earnhardt, Jr. even rocking one in a gathering with the media.
After the game, Skinner talked about the hat trick that wasn’t. “He owes everyone their hats back,” Skinner said jokingly of Bickell.
So in this age of high-tech video applications in all of sports, it might be wise to hold onto your hat and wait for confirmation before lobbing it onto the ice. The Hurricanes held onto win 3-2 and got the much-needed two points. In the end, the ‘Canes’ first win in their home opener in years was great. Just not so much fun if you liked your free hat and then indulged a bit prematurely in one of hockey’s great traditions.
— Alec Campbell (@AlecCampbell5) October 29, 2016
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.