Jeff Skinner (Karl DeBlaker/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jeff Skinner got the puck with 1.5 seconds left, but chose to wind up before letting the puck fly. The result was a shot that went post and in with fractions of a second left as the Hurricanes went on to pick up two points and stay in the Eastern wild-card race.
The Carolina Hurricanes simply won’t go away in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, and even when it looks like they’re about to fall too far out of contention for the final wild-card spot, the Hurricanes pull off a bit of magic to stay within striking distance of the playoffs.
Take Tuesday for example. Down 3-2 to the Senators with two minutes remaining, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward headed to the bench for an extra attacker, and seconds later Ottawa’s Mark Stone came inches from hitting the empty net which would have iced the game for the Senators. Roughly 45 seconds later, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman took his own attempt at the empty cage and shot it just wide, turning possession over to Carolina.
For the next minute-plus, the Hurricanes chipped, chased, hit and were dogged on loose pucks. And after coming within inches of being down 4-2 on two separate occasions, the puck found the Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner in front of the net with 1.5 seconds remaining. Skinner wound up, fired and with 0.2 seconds remaining, the puck found the net:
Skinner’s game-tying goal earned the Hurricanes one point and they picked up the second with a shootout victory. But more importantly, the Hurricanes’ two points were paired with a Red Wings loss, meaning Carolina is now only four points out of a wild-card spot with 15 games remaining.
Judging by their trade deadline moves, the Hurricanes weren’t expecting to stay this close to squeaking into the post-season. Gone are Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John Michael-Liles and Carolina’s roster is filled out by a number of players who’ve spent more time in the AHL, NCAA or juniors than the NHL over the past few seasons. The Hurricanes’ ice time leader with 26 minutes Tuesday was Jaccob Slavin, 21, who was a full-time AHL defenseman until December. He also scored the shootout winner.
However unlikely it may seem that the Hurricanes could actually sneak into the post-season, they have a roughly 6.3 percent chance of making the math work out, according to SportsClubStats.com. That’s going to require some help along the way, of course, and wins by the Hurricanes will need to be paired with losses by Detroit and Philadelphia.
If the Hurricanes do somehow manage to sneak into the post-season, though, it will be one of the least expected playoff berths of the season. And maybe if Carolina makes it, we’ll look back on Skinner’s buzzer beater as the biggest goal of the Hurricanes’ season.