WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes had lost six of eight entering their game against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday and were facing a stretch of six of seven on the road, so they were in need of some positive momentum to carry them forward.
They got it at Verizon Center, riding a three-goal second period to a 4-1 win. Jeff Skinner scored twice, and Justin Peters made 26 saves in his first start in nearly two weeks.
"Everyone was engaged and committed," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Overall we are pretty happy with our effort tonight in a big game coming in here."
Carolina (11-12-5) moved within three points of Washington (14-12-2), which has lost five of seven, in the Metropolitan Division.
Mike Green scored his first goal of the season for the Capitals. Braden Holtby lasted two periods, making 19 saves on 23 shots.
Skinner gave Carolina a 1-0 lead just past the midway point of the first period. After receiving a pass from Eric Staal from below the goal line, Skinner corralled the puck on his backhand before quickly shifting to his forehand and squeaking a tight-angle shot past Holtby, who was hugging the short-side post, at 10:20.
The Hurricanes swiftly took control of the game in the second period, scoring three goals in 3:44 starting with Skinner's second. Defenseman Jay Harrison fired a stretch slap pass from below his goal line that Skinner caught in stride before beating Holtby with a short-side wrister at 11:18.
"He was off to a great start (this season) and then he got hurt," Muller said of Skinner, who missed 11 games with an upper-body injury. "Now he is starting to get in the groove again. ... He's a goal-scorer, and if you give him a chance he's going to score. He's going into the tough areas to create those opportunities, and that's a big plus for us."
Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera, returning from a two-game absence due to an upper-body injury, extended the lead to 3-0 at 14:09 on the power play with a shot from the point, and Jiri Tlusty's backhand goal 53 seconds later capped the scoring outburst.
It was enough for Capitals coach Adam Oates to turn to Philipp Grubauer in place of Holtby to start the third period.
"Their second goal kind of deflated us a little bit," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "I still thought we were OK, and then they got that power-play goal, and there was no life left, not only on the bench, but in the stands. We maybe underestimated these guys a little bit.
"When they were up 3-0 on us, we were mad, but we didn't use that anger the right way. We just kind of felt sorry for ourselves."
Green spoiled Peters' shutout bid on the power play at 6:39 of the third period, snapping the longest season-opening drought of his career at 24 games. Peters was playing for the first time since Nov. 21, with Cam Ward back from a lower-body injury.