Jeff Skinner had a hat trick, and then he didn't. He still did it all to help the Carolina Hurricanes earn a victory they hope will mean even more in the spring.
Skinner had two goals and an assist, and the Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Friday night.
Skinner originally had his fifth career hat trick - and a shower of souvenir hats on the ice - before the third goal was awarded to Bryan Bickell on a scoring change.
"I told Bicksie he owes everyone in the building their hats back," Skinner quipped.
Still, his 16th career three-point night - in his debut wearing the "A" as an alternate captain - helped the Hurricanes win their home opener.
"He's got the ability to make things happen in tight spaces," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "He's got real good edge control. And he's dangerous. He's a goal-scorer. There's not a lot of them anymore, and he's a pure scorer, one of those guys that can just hang in the weeds a little bit and all of a sudden he gets the puck at the right time and the right spot, and it's in the net."
Victor Rask had two assists, giving him points in all seven games, and Cam Ward made 28 saves - stoppingMats Zuccarello with about 5 seconds left - to help Carolina snap a two-game losing streak.
Zuccarello scored two power-play goals and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 18 shots for the Rangers, who snapped a three-game winning streak.
It seems silly to label an October game as a must-win, but this might have counted as one for the Hurricanes: Since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, they have not made the playoffs in any season in which they lost their home opener . Meanwhile, only twice in that span have they won their first game at PNC Arena, and they went on to reach the postseason both times.
And Skinner did plenty to make it happen in this one.
He beat the second-period buzzer with a slap shot from the right circle - a review found that 0.8 seconds were on the clock when the puck crossed the goal line - that sent hundreds of complimentary hats onto the ice. It wasn't until the intermission that officials determined the puck clipped Bickell on its way past Lundqvist.
"I was shocked when I saw it in the net," Lundqvist said. "Just had eyes, that puck, and obviously it's a backbreaker to give up a goal that late. That's the winner."
That came after Skinner tied it with 7:26 left in the first when he chased down the rebound of his shot and snapped it high from the circle . He put Carolina up 2-1 by beating Lundqvist with a smooth backhand 33 seconds into the second.
Zuccarello matched him goal for goal, beating Ward on a breakaway with 7:43 left in the second to make it 2-all, after his first goal was disputed by the Hurricanes.
His high wrister from the left circle came after Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey and New York winger Pavel Buchnevich fell on top of Ward during a scrum. The Hurricanes' challenged, claiming interference, but the goal was upheld upon review.
"I felt like after we tied it at 2, the way we were playing, it felt like we were going to get this one," Lundqvist said.
NOTES: Lundqvist assisted on Zuccarello's second goal for the veteran goalie's first assist of the season. He had four last year. ... Only one player in Hurricanes/Whalers history has a longer points streak to begin a season than Rask - general manager Ron Francis, who did it in 1984-85 with Hartford. ... Two-time Daytona 500 winner NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. sounded the siren that blares when the Hurricanes enter the rink.
Rangers: Return home to face Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Hurricanes: Wrap up a two-game homestand Sunday against division rival Philadelphia.