RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes are not in a Stanley Cup Playoffs position as their season nears the three-quarters mark. But there is a growing sense among the Hurricanes that they are doing more than just playing well: They believe they are going somewhere.
Jeff Skinner scored twice to help Carolina to a 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks at PNC Arena on Friday.
The Hurricanes (27-22-10) moved within two points of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Goaltender Cam Ward, who made 22 saves, has gone 10 games without a loss in regulation (6-0-4).
"As a team, we're playing really strong," Ward said. "I feel like I've got the mindset that this is playoff hockey for us. I want to help push these guys into the playoffs."
One night after each team played on the road, the Hurricanes got on the board first when Chris Terry scored his fifth goal of the season at 7:03 of the first period. Defenseman Noah Hanifin's pass from the right point knuckled toward the slot, where Terry made a long tip that sailed over the head of goaltender Martin Jones (32 saves). Riley Nash earned the second assist, extending his point streak to four games.
San Jose answered at 14:07 when defenseman Brent Burns scored his 19th goal of the season. Burns took a cross-ice pass from Joel Ward before making a drag move past Victor Rask in the slot and scoring with a shot inside the right post. The goal ended a 16-game drought for Burns.
"I thought it was a good first period," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "There was a lot of pace and not very many whistles. I thought both teams were hungry, but I thought we played well. I like the way responded."
The Hurricanes dominated the second period, beginning with a power play that yielded five shots. But Jones held off Carolina's push until the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead at 12:25 when Nordstrom took a pass from Jordan Staal and scored on a hard blast from above the circles.
Video: SJS@CAR: Nordstrom puts Hurricanes up with slap shot
Carolina outshot San Jose 19-4 in the second period.
"They took the game over," San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said. "We pretty much got what we deserved tonight. I think we lost too many of the tough areas; faceoffs, special teams. When you lose three or four significant areas in the game, you're not going to win. They deserved the win and we got what we deserved."
Carolina made it 3-1 when Skinner scored his 20th goal of the season 39 seconds into the third period. With the Hurricanes on a power play, Eric Staal's stuff chance left a rebound for Skinner, who finished from along the goal line. The goal was initially waived off for goaltender interference, but the call was overturned after a Carolina challenge.
"I think [the referee] thought I pulled the goaltender, but I never touched him," Staal said. "It was a great play by Skinner, getting to the net and attacking. He's good around that area."
It was Staal's third point (all assists) in 15 games. The lack of offensive production has been weighing him.
"Anything at this point would be getting me going," said Carolina's captain, who has one goal in 22 games. "I want any point any way I can get it. You focus on doing the little things right and continue to compete and battle. It was nice to contribute offensively. I'm counted on to be that on this team, and it hasn't been the case for a while."
Video: SJS@CAR: Skinner shoots off rebound, scores
The Sharks cut the deficit to one on a turnover. Patrick Marleau took advantage of Ward's puckhandling miscue behind the net, feeding Tomas Hertl for an uncontested tap-in at 10:38.
But Skinner pushed the lead back to two goals when Jaccob Slavin's shot deflected off a skate and came to him in the slot for an easy finish at 15:32. Jordan Staal hit the empty net with 2:25 remaining.
After the game, Peters threw his support behind Ward as his starting goaltender down the stretch.
"He's our guy," the Hurricanes coach said. "We're going to ride a guy and it will be Cam."
Not only are the Hurricanes getting the solid goaltending that was missing at the start of the season, but they are winning games that are decided in the third period.
"Our guys are way more comfortable in these one-goal games than we were [in the past]," Peters said. "It's a sign of progress, and it's exciting."
Everything is a little more exciting these days for the Hurricanes. They passed another test on Friday, beating a strong road team that was on a 13-2-3 run. With every confidence-building win, the stakes will grow during the final 23 games.
"It's a big time of the year," Skinner said. "Every time you come to the rink, those two points are big."
The Hurricanes host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. San Jose is 2-1-0 on a five-game road trip that continues against the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
Video: Hurricanes trounce Sharks in 5-2 win