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Lindholm leads Hurricanes past Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to wrap up the Metropolitan Division title Tuesday night.

After consecutive wins following a three-game losing streak, the Penguins lost 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, the seventh-place team in the Metropolitan Division, at Consol Energy Center.

Anton Khudobin made 11 third-period saves to earn his 17th win, and Eric Staal scored with 8:13 remaining in the third period to put the game away. Staal deflected a shot from Andrei Loktionov past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for a three-goal Carolina lead.

The loss kept Pittsburgh from clinching the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins could have clinched with a win, a regulation loss by the Philadelphia Flyers, or an overtime loss and a Flyers loss in any fashion. Philadelphia lost to the St. Louis Blues 1-0 in a shootout.

Fleury, who is 9-8-3 since Jan. 20, allowed four goals on 28 shots. The Penguins have struggled in their past 11 home games, going 4-5-2.

"I guess when you look at the last six games and the inconsistency of our play, I don't think any player looks at that and says, 'We're all right with that,'" Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We've been in a lot of hockey games that have been desperate, fighting for a playoff spot. We've known that, we've seen that.

"It shouldn't be an issue at all that we're locked in or we're in this spot or Game 76 doesn't mean anything to us. That shouldn't be a factor at all in our play."

The Hurricanes snapped a five-game losing streak to the Penguins and avoided a season sweep. They rebounded from a 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

"We've had some tough starts over the past couple weeks, but our goaltenders seem to be ready every time," Staal said. "We had a tough game in Ottawa last night, got in real late, and it took a while for us to get our legs into it, but once we did, we really took over. I thought we frustrated them and got the goals we needed."

Carolina built a 3-1 lead in the second period with two goals from Elias Lindholm. Loktionov and Jeff Skinner, each of whom had two assists, also had two-point games for the Hurricanes.

With Penguins forward James Neal in the penalty box for tripping, the NHL's 29th-ranked power play scored against the League's fourth-ranked penalty kill. Skinner sent a pass from behind the goal through defenseman Olli Maatta's legs to Lindholm, who snapped a shot into the upper-left corner of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Lindholm scored again 5:33 later after stripping defenseman Deryk Engelland of the puck. He fired a wrist shot past Fleury for his eighth goal of the season.

Carolina had a 23-20 lead in shots entering the third period after trailing 12-2 earlier in the game.

"We said we wanted to come in and play a 1-0 quality type game," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "We wanted to get all the puck behind their D and make them stop in their zone and kind of stop them from getting their flow going in the game and getting their centers driving through the middle, which they love."

Pittsburgh played some of its best hockey through the game's opening 10 minutes, but couldn't take full advantage, allowing the Hurricanes to tie the game before the first period ended.

Chris Kunitz's 35th goal of the season gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead 9:01 into the first. While Lee Stempniak battled for the puck along the boards, it squirted out in the middle of the ice to Kunitz, who fired a wrist shot past Khudobin.

Sidney Crosby was awarded a secondary assist, his 100th point of the season. Crosby, who leads Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf by 17 points for the League lead, reached 100 points for the fifth time in his career, first since 2009-10, when he scored 109.

"It's a number," Crosby said. "I mean, it's nice. I don't think you go into seasons thinking about that. I think it's nice when you get the opportunity to do it, and it's a lot better when you win."

Pittsburgh had several more first-period chances, including a penalty shot.

Penguins forward Brian Gibbons was awarded a penalty shot 2:26 into the game after he was hooked by defenseman Ron Hainsey. Gibbons skated wide to the left on the penalty shot before curving toward the net. He faked to his right, causing Khudobin to fall forward, and attempted to tuck it into the net's left side, but his shot went off Khudobin's right pad.

The Penguins' failed attempts haunted them late in the period. Carolina recorded eight of the period's last nine shots and tied the game on a Justin Faulk slap shot with 5:21 remaining.

After earning the puck out of the corner, Pittsburgh forward Jussi Jokinen sent a pass that deflected off Matt Niskanen's skate to Faulk near the blue line. Faulk slapped a shot past a sliding Niskanen and off Fleury's left shoulder for his fourth goal, first since Dec. 29.

"That first period, they came out quick," Carolina forward Jordan Staal said. "They tried to take us out of the game right away and they made some great plays to get opportunities. [Khudobin] was there to make some big saves, and I thought we got our legs and got our game under us and started taking away their time and frustrating them and creating chances of our own."

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