The Carolina Hurricanes may be running out of time to make the playoffs. They're not going to go down without a fight.
Newcomer Brian Pothier scored 23 seconds into overtime Thursday night as the Hurricanes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 to improve to 13-3-1 in their last 17 games, including 9-1-1 in their last 11.
It was the second time in as many nights that the 'Canes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to catch one of the Eastern Conference's elite. They trailed 2-0 at Washington on Wednesday but got a point in a 4-3 overtime loss, then overcame an early 2-0 deficit to beat Pittsburgh.
"Two of the best teams in the league -- the defending Stanley Cup champion and the potential Presidents' Trophy winner," Pothier said. "So great test for us. I think we responded pretty well. At times, we looked tired tonight, but we battled through it."
With 64 points, the Hurricanes still trail eighth-place Boston by eight in the Eastern Conference race. But the 'Canes are one of the few teams chasing a playoff berth in the East that are on a roll.
"We're still trying to fight. We know there's a chance," said rookie Zach Boychuk, who scored Carolina's second goal. "We know we're one of the hottest teams in the League right now. If we can keep up this pace and give strong efforts against teams like Pittsburgh and Washington, it could be interesting down to the end."
Pothier, who came from Washington in a trade-deadline deal, won it when he took a pass from Whitney from behind the net and snapped it past Brent Johnson, giving the 'Canes a victory in a game they trailed 2-0 and were outshot 40-21.
"(Whitney) is a special player," Pothier said after scoring his first goal for Carolina. "He sees the ice better than most guys do. He wasn't looking at me, but I had a feeling he saw me. He put it right under somebody's stick and through a set of legs. It was a beautiful pass."
"I don't think tonight was easy for him," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said about Peters. "I thought in his other games he was sharp and on. I thought he had to fight through it a little bit because some of the rebounds got away from him. But he still managed."
But the Hurricanes didn't need much time to tie the game. Whitney got the Hurricanes on the board with a power-play goal off a one-timer at 7:46, and rookie Zach Boychuk tied it at 9:11 when he grabbed the puck off a faceoff, raced into the Penguins' zone and backhanded the puck past Johnson's blocker.
"I think that the team we played tonight has proven all year long that they are not going to stop playing," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, whose club swept Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring. "They are going to work regardless of the standings or what the score is."
Eric Staal then gave Carolina a 3-2 lead 2:09 into the second period when he banked the puck into the net off Johnson's legs from a sharp angle. But Pittsburgh got even when Matt Cooke backhanded a rebounded through Peters' legs. Cooke, who was not suspended earlier in the week for a hit to the head of Boston's Marc Savard on Sunday, was booed loudly after the goal.
The point increased the Penguins' total to 85, four more than second-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. The Pens, 5-0-4 in their last nine games, visit the Devils on Friday night.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|Jordan Staal (19) ASST: Pascal Dupuis (13), Mark Eaton (11)|
1 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Bill Guerin (18) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (46), Sidney Crosby (41)|
2 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Ray Whitney (20) ASST: Joni Pitkanen (35), Brian Pothier (9)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Zach Boychuk (2) ASST: NONE|
2 - 2 Tie
|Eric Staal (21) ASST: Erik Cole (3)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Matt Cooke (13) ASST: Pascal Dupuis (14), Alex Goligoski (23)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Brian Pothier (5) ASST: Ray Whitney (31), Eric Staal (33)|
4 - 3 CAR
|Patrick Dwyer Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Sergei Gonchar Boarding against Chad LaRose|
|Maxime Talbot Holding against Sergei Samsonov|
|Mark Eaton Interference against Erik Cole|
|Sergei Gonchar Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Tuomo Ruutu Interference - Goalkeeper against Brent Johnson|