RALEIGH, N.C. -- On a night when PNC Arena was alive with tributes and sentiments for former Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, his ex-teammates continued their ascent toward a promising future.
Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask scored in the third period to lift the Hurricanes to a 4-3 come-from-behind win against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
With the loss, the Rangers (43-25-9) failed to clinch a berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They also fell into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a two-point lead over the fourth-place New York Islanders, who have a game in hand.
"I haven't said this very often about this group, but we got outworked badly in the first period," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We definitely weren't prepared to compete. Disappointing considering with a win tonight it would have assured us a playoff spot. I guess we will regroup and go from there."
The Rangers had defeated the Hurricanes (34-28-16) in the three previous games this season, but Carolina erased two one-goal deficits, getting key contributions from a fourth line comprised of players who have spent nearly all season in Charlotte of the American Hockey League.
Video: NYR@CAR: Rask puts home the rebound for PPG
Patrick Brown scored his first NHL goal and assist, and Sergey Tolchinsky, playing in his first NHL game, set up a tying goal in the second period.
Since March 1, Carolina is 6-2-5. The Hurricanes have auditioned several prospects from the AHL in March, following the departures of Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
"This team continues to grow and develop and figure it out," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "That's what's happening."
For Staal, the night was emotional. After 12 seasons and 909 games with the Hurricanes, he was traded to the Rangers on Feb. 28. He received a standing ovation from the crowd after a video tribute during the first TV timeout in the first period.
Video: NYR@CAR: Ward robs former teammate E. Staal in front
"It was pretty neat," Staal said. "A lot of emotions. A lot of memories and things that came flooding back at that moment."
Staal finished the night with two shots and three hits in 11:40 of ice time.
The Hurricanes dominated the early play, culminating in Brown's goal. Skinner sent a hard cross-corner blast from behind the blue line and Brown gathered the puck off the glass before beating Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves, on the short side.
"That was a great feeling," said Brown, playing in his 11th NHL game and fourth of the season. "Skinner made a great play there and I was able to beat the (defenseman) coming off the bench and snuck it by him."
Video: NYR@CAR: Faulk's long-range wrister finds the twine
For Brown, the milestone goal was everything he imagined.
"Every kid dreams of scoring his first NHL goal," said Brown, whose father, Doug, played 15 seasons in the NHL. "It doesn't matter the goalie, but it was pretty cool to score on Hank. I was just happy Skinner made such a good dump there. He saw me flying and he put it off the end wall. It was a world-class play."
The Hurricanes outshot the Rangers 13-4 in the first, generating mostly high-quality chances. Lundqvist stopped bids by Rask and Jay McClement early as the Rangers struggled to find their footing.
Video: NYR@CAR: Skinner deflects shot to even the game
Needing a better effort in the second period, the Rangers struck for two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead.
Derek Stepan's pass across the slot set up Mats Zuccarello for a quick shot that glanced off Ward's shoulder at 1:36. The goal gave Zuccarello 18 points in 19 games against Carolina.
Rick Nash scored his 15th of the season at 5:03. With Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce draped on his back, Nash managed to chip a puck over Ward's glove and inside the far post. J.T Miller earned the assist.
Carolina made it 2-2 on Justin Faulk's 16th goal, a shot from the right point at 13:27 of the second. Tolchinsky stickhandled through the neutral zone and past a pair of Rangers defenders before leaving the puck for Faulk. Lundqvist appeared to be screened on the shot that sailed past his glove.
Video: NYR@CAR: Brown nets his first NHL goal from Skinner
"It was a great shot by Faulk, a wrister from the blue line, top shelf," Tolchinsky said. "I wasn't really sure what I was doing. I kind of blacked out. First I thought I should dump it in, but I decided to cut to the middle. That worked out well."
The Rangers took a 3-2 lead on Chris Kreider's power-play goal at 17:18. With Ron Hainsey in the box for hooking, Kreider chased down a dump-in from Stepan and scored on a shot that was nearly identical to Nash's goal. Kreider chipped the puck inside the far post for his 19th goal.
Skinner tied the game at 4:22 of the third when he redirected Ryan Murphy's shot from the point for his 27th goal. Brown earned the other assist for his second NHL point.
"It's a little thing, but (Brown) giving it to Murphy off the wall so he can one-time it was important," Skinner said. "If he gives it to him on his backhand, he probably can't get that shot through. Just making smart plays by everyone is encouraging."
Video: NYR@CAR: Hurricanes fans give Staal ovation in return
Rask scored the game-winner off of a long rebound for a power-play goal at 9:06 of the third.
Carolina has four games remaining and only a remote chance to make the playoffs, but there is reason to be optimistic about next season.
"We're going to be a deeper team next year," Peters said. "We're going to have all the experience we've gathered this year as a group and continue to head in the right direction."
Video: Skinner, Rask score in 3rd to lift Canes to 4-3 win