RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes have been looking for consistent goal scoring all season. Many suggested they look to the minors, where they had the AHL’s leading scorer. Others said the team’s underperforming players needed to up their game.
The Hurricanes needed — and got — both Thursday.
Valentin Zykov — playing his second game since being recalled from the Charlotte Checkers where he had 32 goals in 61 games — and Jeff Skinner — mired in a 13-game goal drought — each scored twice in the Hurricanes’ wild 6-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes in front of 10,535 at PNC Arena.
Skinner both opened the scoring and closed it, getting his 21st goal just 48 seconds into the game and added his 22nd, the game-winner, with 1:58 left.
“I was happy for him,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “He got one early and he got one late, both big goals.”
As for Zykov, his season debut Tuesday against Edmonton was uneventful, the same as pretty much everyone in a 7-3 loss to the Oilers. On Thursday, Zykov had everyone wondering what took so long to get him to Raleigh.
Zykov followed Skinner’s opening goal by receiving a pass in the slot and burying a shot past Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper (24 saves), and he scored midway through the third period to tie the game.
“I just saw Jaccob have the puck on the blue line, and I was going, ‘He wants to put it on the net and just get in front’ and the rest is, you know,” Zykov said of the tying goal.
It was a game of peaks and valleys.
In the opening minute, Phil Di Giuseppe gave the puck to Elias Lindholm to the right of Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper, and Lindholm found Skinner alone on the opposite post for an early 1-0 lead.
Then Sebastian Aho, playing center with Teuvo Teravainen and Zykov on his wing, entered the zone, waited out the Coyotes defense and fed the puck to the slot. There was Zykov, who quickly released a wrist shot that beat Kuemper at the 4:55 mark of the first for his second NHL goal in his fourth career game.
Asked what it was like playing with the two red-hot Finns, Zykov had a simple answer: “I think it’s obvious.”
The Coyotes cut the lead in half and stalled Carolina’s momentum with perhaps the strangest goal ever scored in the Hurricanes’ 20-year history.
Goalie Cam Ward (28 saves) circled behind the Hurricanes net to retrieve a Coyotes dump in, but the puck lodged in Ward’s skate unbeknownst to him. Ward, unable to locate the puck, returned to his crease and in doing so dragged his right skate past the goal line.
The refs blew the play dead, then ordered a video review. It was ruled a good goal and credited to Arizona defenseman Alex Goligoski, his 10th of the season, at 8:27 of the first.
“I’ve had some bad bounces throughout my career, but I think, certainly, that tops the list,” said Ward, still visibly irritated with the play. “I mean, what can you do? The puck gets stuck in your skate, and I didn’t know where it was and it goes in.
“I can sit here and pretend it didn’t bother me, because it did bother me,” he added. “You battle all season long, you compete, and then a bounce like that happens. It doesn’t seem fair at the time.”
That gave the Coyotes momentum.
“I think it affected everybody, to be honest with you,” Peters said. “I think it was one of those where you just shake your head, right? And you’re thinking, ‘What else? What’s next?’ It was very bizarre, like very unusual.”
Arizona seized the moment when Derek Stepan set up rookie Clayton Keller for a goal with 21.8 seconds left in the period for a 2-2 tie after one.
The Hurricanes went back ahead on a goal by Di Giuseppe 1:40 into the second period, but Arizona earned its first lead with two goals — by Josh Archibald and Nick Cousins — in 78 seconds to give the Coyotes a 4-3 lead less than six minutes into the middle frame.
Teravainen got his 23rd goal of the season to even the game with 5:04 left in the second. But the Coyotes, like they did in the opening period, scored in the final minute of second to move back ahead when, on the power play, Goligoski got his second goal of the night to make 5-4 entering the third period.
After a slow start that saw the Hurricanes fail to register a shot on goal for nearly the first eight minutes of the third period, Zykov dumped the puck into Arizona zone and set up shop in the place he’s had so much success with the Checkers — right on the top of the crease.
The Hurricanes worked the puck to Jaccob Slavin, and Zykov fended off two Coyotes and Kuemper to knock in the loose change and tie the game at 5 with 10:14 remaining.
“He’s a big and strong in front,” Skinner said of Zykov. “He’s tough to move and, obviously, he’s got some nice hands around the net. It’s a pretty good combination.”
Slavin started the play on the game-winner as well, leading a rush up ice with Skinner and Di Giuseppe. Slavin passed the puck to Di Giuseppe on the right wing, and Di Giuseppe then slung it cross ice to Skinner on the left.
With Slavin crashing the net, Skinner tried to return the puck to him, but it was deflected, and Skinner backhanded the loose puck past Kuemper for the winning goal with just 1:58 left.
“I think when you do things right, you get rewarded more often than not, and there were some good things here tonight,” Peters said.
Notes: Hurricanes defensemen Justin Faulk and Haydn Fleury each left the game briefly, but were able to return. Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, however, seemed to injure his knee and had to be helped off the ice in the second period. He did not return to the game. … Di Giuseppe had a goal and two assists, giving him the first three-point game of his career. … It was Slavin’s first three-assist game, and the second time he had at least three points (three goals, one assist on March 13, 2017, at the Islanders). … Teravainen and Aho extended their point streaks to seven games. Both have 61 points, tied for the team lead and the first time each has broken the 60-point barrier. … Carolina announced Wednesday that defenseman Brett Pesce and center Victor Rask would miss the rest of the season due to shoulder injuries. Peters said at Thursday’s morning skate that both could have shoulder surgery before the end of the season. … Noah Hanifin missed the game with a concussion.