Skinner, Ward lead the way in 3-2 Hurricanes win over Rangers in home opener

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes opened their home schedule with a video touting the team’s “New Blood.” At Friday’s game at PNC Arena, it was the old guard that came through.Jeff Skinner scored twice and added another assist on the game-winner that was initially ruled his hat trick goal, and Cam Ward earned his first home opener win since 2008 in a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in front of 18,680 fans.”You need to win those games against good teams, and it’s something to build off of,” Skinner said.Skinner spent the game trading goals with Rangers’ most similarly dynamic player.Mats Zuccarello struck first with a power play goal at 8:31 of the first, but it didn’t take the Hurricanes (2-3-2) long to knot the score.Skinner, who was a game-time decision after missing Carolina’s game Tuesday in Detroit, got the Hurricanes on the board four minutes later. After dancing through the Rangers defense and firing a shot that Henrik Lundqvist fought off, Skinner — wearing a letter for the first time since being named an alternate captain —collected the rebound, curled around the New York net to the right hashmark, and ripped a shot through Lundqvist to make it 1-1.”[It was a] 99 percent chance he was going to play and I’m glad he did,” coach Bill Peters said. “He was huge here tonight.”Skinner later bested that effort, shrugging off Kevin Klein on a partial breakaway 33 seconds into the second period and roofing a backhand past Lundqvist for his fourth of the season to give Carolina a 2-1 lead.But Zuccarello answered, accepting a flip pass from captain Ryan McDonagh and finishing a breakaway of his own between Ward’s pads to tie it at 12:17 of the period.Skinner wasn’t done. With Carolina on the power play and time winding down in the second, the new alternate captain fired a shot from the right circle that found the net with 0.5 seconds left and, on free hat night, caps rained down on the ice. But while the teams were in the locker room for intermission, the goal was credited to Bryan Bickell, whose sweater was grazed by the puck on the way through, for his first goal as a Hurricane.Lots of Hurricanes fans were down a free hat, but Carolina was up one goal to start the third period. It was all they would need.”It’s been a while since I’ve scored a goal,” Bickell said of his first NHL tally since Dec. 20, 2015. “I know it could’ve hit me, but then it showed it hit me, so I’m just happy to get the goal late in the period to carry us through the game. … That’s what we needed to hold off for the win tonight.”Carolina struggled in goal during its six-game road trip, but Ward was rock-solid early and able to hold down the one-goal lead in the third.”Clearly nobody needs to tell me that I need to step up,” Ward said. “It was important for me to be ready. They came out hot in the first period and I’m fortunate to make some saves. That’s what we need out of our goaltender is to make the big saves early and give the boys a chance to get going.”Peters said Ward would get the nod again Sunday when Philadelphia visits PNC Arena.”You win, you stay in right now,” Peters said of his goalies.Notes: Victor Rask extended his point streak to seven games, registering two assists on the night. … Carolina’s three second-year defensemen — Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin — all got assists. … Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck was benched for much of the second half of the game, playing just one shift in the third period. When asked if Dahlbeck didn’t play because of performance or injury — he went awkwardly into the boards in the second period — Peters responded, “Both.”