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Rookie Jeff Skinner leads Hurricanes past Wild 2-1

Rookie Jeff Skinner scored the only goal of the shootout and Cam Ward was strong in goal, leading the Carolina Hurricanes past the Minnesota Wild 2-1 Friday for a sweep of the two season-opening games in Finland.

Skinner, an 18-year-old forward, also set up Carolina's first goal from Tuomo Ruutu, which tied the game two minutes into the second period. The Wild opened the scoring 17 minutes into the first period on Andrew Brunette's goal.

Ward made 41 saves for Carolina, stopping Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen in the shootout to preserve the victory.

"This was my second game, and a great way to finish that off," Skinner said. "First, I was looking to shoot, but the puck was rolling on me and I tried to settle it down. It sort of opened up for me then."

"It's pretty big," he added. "It has not really sunk in yet. So far I have a lot of memories from my first two games."

The game was played before a sellout crowd of 13,465 and was more confrontational than Thursday night's 4-3 victory by Carolina. There were two early fights and a nasty one between the Wild's Eric Nystrom and Tom Kostopoulos of the Hurricanes.

Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu was a force in the offensive end. His shot led to Brunette's opening goal off a rebound at 17:23 of the first period.

One key for Carolina was its short-handed play for 5½ minutes during the second period, which featured a 30-second stretch in which it was two men short. Another was the goaltending of Ward, who was unruffled by crowding in the crease and covered every point-blank shot.

Minnesota had chances late in the game. Martin Havlat failed to score on two breakaways, the puck gliding almost along the goal line on the second try in overtime.

On the basis of two games, Skinner, with well-timed forays to the net, could stick around for Carolina. The team has seven games to decide whether to keep him or return him to the juniors.

"I'll work hard and take each game as it comes and be better every day," he said.

He was a little intimidated by stepping into the NHL atmosphere at just 18 years old.

"But more by my first practice with guys like Cam Ward and Eric Staal than by the level of play itself. It was cool to be there with them. Just now I feel pretty comfortable," he said. "I got two great players, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, who make the game a lot easier for me."

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