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Recap: Canes Skate Past NHL's Top Team

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Analysis from Raleigh

→ What happens when the league's best team and one of the league's best teams at home go toe-to-toe? A pretty thrilling hockey game, is what. And in their first of three meetings with the Columbus Blue Jackets in a short span of 12 days, the Carolina Hurricanes earned a 5-3 victory.

"It's a big win for us. Every night is a big two points," Staal said. "It was fun to get the win and play well. It was a back-and-forth game."

"We can play against any team in this league right now, and I think we showed that tonight," Brock McGinn said.

Video: Skinner, Rask lead Canes to 5-3 win

→ With 20 minutes remaining in regulation to settle a 3-3 score, the Hurricanes regained their lead just 3:50 in to the final frame. Elias Lindholm, returning to the lineup after missing the team's last five games with an upper-body injury, directed the puck toward the net. Staal was jostling in front of Anton Forsberg, who was making his season debut tonight, and he got a stick on the puck to deflect in the net.

"It's always nice to have him back. He's such a smart player. He makes good little plays, holds on to the puck and brings guys to him," Staal said of Lindholm. "I thought our line did a good job tonight to help us win."

"You see the addition of Lindy into the lineup and what he means to this team. I thought he was very good. I thought he didn't miss a beat," head coach Bill Peters said. "He was playing very well when he went out, and it's a credit to him to be able to come back and play at that level."

The Hurricanes then fended off the Blue Jackets' attack in the remainder of regulation and Victor Rask added an empty-net goal in the final minute, as the Canes improved to 12-1-1 in their last 14 home games.

"Our team is very confident right now. From Wardo all the way up the forwards, everybody is playing good," McGinn said. "There's a real good chemistry right now in this dressing room."

→ After a sleepy first 20 minutes, the Hurricanes emerged in the second period with a noticeable jump in energy. Not even five minutes deep into the middle frame, in a span of just 2:56, the Hurricanes erased the 1-0 deficit and claimed a 2-1 lead.

"Coming out in the second, we wanted to build on some of the good things, and I think we did a good job getting in on the forecheck a little bit better," Jeff Skinner said.

Skinner's quick snap shot from the slot, his team-leading 15th goal of the season, got the Hurricanes on the board. 

On his next shift, Skinner accepted a drop pass from Derek Ryan and got the puck on goal. Ryan then crashed the net and banged in the rebound to put the Canes ahead by a goal. In two consecutive shifts, the trio of Skinner (1g, 1a), Ryan (1g, 1a) and Rask (2a) combined for six points. On Rask's empty-net tally, Skinner added an assist, as both players finished with three-point nights.

"They were dangerous," Peters said of the Skinner-Rask-Ryan line. "They were very good tonight."

Video: Hear from Rask, Skinner, Lindholm and Peters

The remainder of the period went back and forth before the two teams took a 3-3 score into the second intermission.

"They're a good team, and they're going to make pushes back. We made some good pushes too," Staal said. "It was back-and-forth. It was a good game."

Josh Anderson's backhander floated in over Cam Ward's shoulder to tie the game at two. On a delayed penalty sequence six minutes later, McGinn parked himself in the slot and scored on a feed from Matt Tennyson, who was cruising beneath the goal line.

"You want to create opportunities, get shots on net and get them from good areas. Ginner's goal is a good example. Tenny does a great job coming around the back of the net and finding Ginner in a pretty good position," Skinner said. "You want to fight to get to the net and get good, quality opportunities."

With just 55 seconds left in the period, Columbus again tied the game as Brandon Saad opted to retain the puck on a 2-on-1 rush and buried the shot.

→ The Hurricanes, who are now within three points of a wild card spot with two games in hand, host the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders on back-to-back nights this weekend to draw this four-game homestand to a close.

"These are big games. It's a good opportunity," Skinner said. "We've got some home games and a lot of games against divisional opponents coming up."

"I think [the players] get energized by the fact that they know they can play with anybody," Peters said. "We're confident each and every night that we're going to get two points."

"We've played a lot of hockey and there's a lot more to come," Staal said. "I feel like the way we've grown as a group and the hockey we're playing right now, we're very happy with it and want to continue to get better to make a push."

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