Nashville Predators 1, Carolina Hurricanes 2
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner isn't one to take much personal credit after contributing to a win.
So when he scored the game-winner late in the third period to lift the Hurricanes to a 2-1 victory against the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena on Sunday night, he was quick to deflect the praise.
"I just keep trying to hit the net," said Skinner, whose blast from the right faceoff circle beat Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton with 3:31 remaining. "(Tuomo) Ruutu made a great pass to me and I just tried to get it through to the net. I think it went through their D-man's legs. Sometimes that's just the way it goes."
Maybe it's just way it goes, but that doesn't entirely explain Skinner's good fortune lately. He has 16 goals in his past 16 games, and 20 in 32 games overall. With the Olympics a month away, he has certainly raised his profile for consideration on the Canadian team.
Even then, Skinner is reluctant to think of his personal goals, but he nearly let his enthusiasm slip out.
"It will be cool to watch," he said, "but hopefully, I mean, right now, we're just trying to keep this thing going.
"It's not really in my control. I can't really worry about it too much. It's going to be what it's going to be. They're going to have a great team whoever plays on it."
Skinner's coach is also high on the 21-year-old's Olympic chances.
"As his coach, I'd like to push for him," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "The country is fortunate to have a lot of good forwards, but it really comes down to he's a dynamic player. He's an opportunist. If they're looking for a player to add like that, he's pretty darn hot."
The Hurricanes and Predators played a grinding game with very little offensive flow.
Carolina scored at 4:28 of the first period when Alexander Semin gathered a loose puck behind the net and flipped it off the back of Hutton and into the net.
Then late in the period, Ruutu earned his second assist of the night by setting up Skinner. The Hurricanes (18-16-9) now have a season-high four-game win streak.
"It's just being consistent in our game," said Skinner, who was sporting a fat lip after taking a puck to the face in the second period. "We've been consistent for 60 minutes. And (Anton) Khudobin has played real well. He's made some huge stops for us. That's been a big part of it too."
Khudobin stopped 31 shots to run his record to 5-0-0. He has started three straight after missing 32 games with an ankle injury. The time on the sidelines was beginning to take its toll.
"I couldn't wait to start playing," Khudobin said. "I was buying Legos to at least kill some time."
The height of his boredom came when he put in a marathon session.
"I built a truck with a remote controller," he said with a smile. "It took me 12 hours."
"(Khudobin) should be fresh, and we want to push from now until the Olympic break," Muller said. "We just took a chance. It's three in four nights for him, but he's been playing well."
The Predators finished a three-game road trip with an 0-1-2 mark.
"They are disappointed," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They put a lot into it. We should have had five out of six points on this trip. We come back with two and that's discouraging."
Trotz was not so charitable is his assessment of Hutton's play on Skinner's game-winner.
"You have to save those," he said. "That was not much of a shot at all. The guys have a lot of character and we battle back every game and put ourselves in the position to get points, so we just need a save."
Carolina played without captain Eric Staal, who suffered a lower-body injury Saturday night against the New York Islanders. Muller expects Staal to be out five or six days.
Staal had not missed a game since Feb. 26, 2011, snapping his streak of 191 consecutive games played.