Staal's goal lifts Hurricanes past Blue Jackets 5-3
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By JOEDY McCREARY
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Jeff Skinner is just trying to keep up with his productive linemates. They've helped the Carolina Hurricanes keep pace in their push for an elusive playoff berth.
Skinner had a goal and two assists, linemate Victor Rask had two assists and an empty-net goal, and the Hurricanes beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Derek Ryan, the third member of the Skinner-Rask line, also had a goal and an assist for Carolina.
"He played well. He creates stuff, he's got good poise," Skinner said of Ryan. "He's playing with some confidence, and me and Rasky just had to keep up with him tonight."
At the midpoint of the season, the Hurricanes moved within three points of a playoff berth with two games in hand. The Hurricanes haven't made the postseason since 2009.
"They know they can play with anybody," coach Bill Peters said. "We're confident, each and every night, that we're going to get two points. I believe when I wake up in the morning on game day, we're leaving at the end of the night with two."
Cam Atkinson scored his 20th goal on the same day he was left off the All-Star team, and Josh Anderson and Brandon Saad also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have a league-best 60 points but have lost three of four since winning 16 straight.
Cam Ward made 24 saves for the Hurricanes while making his 17th straight start, his longest streak since 2011.
With All-Star pick Sergei Bobrovsky ill, backup Anton Forsberg stopped 23 shots in his season debut for the Blue Jackets. The league's best power-play unit was 0 for 4 against a Carolina penalty kill that ranks No. 2 in the NHL.
"I think our power play has helped us win games because it has scored a lot of goals this year," coach John Tortorella said. "Had some good scoring chances, especially in the third period, we had some push, but our power-play didn't work. You've got to give them some credit. They've had good penalty-killing all year long."
Elias Lindholm - activated from injured reserve earlier in the day after missing five games with an upper-body injury - started the Hurricanes' go-ahead sequence with a shot from behind the circle that clicked off Staal on its way past Forsberg.
Ward stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period, and Rask's empty-netter sealed Carolina's second straight victory.
Both teams have been tough to beat lately. While the Hurricanes have been strong on home ice, the Blue Jackets had been even better no matter where they played, with their winning streak that was one shy of the NHL record ending last week.
The teams combined to score five goals during a wild second period.
The Skinner-Ryan-Rask line generated two goals in the first 5 minutes to erase a 1-0 deficit. Skinner tied it 2:01 into the second with a wrist shot from between the circles, and when his slap shot got past Forsberg about 3 minutes later, Ryan crashed the net and tapped in the rebound.
"He needs to just eat it, and we start over," Tortorella said of Forsberg. "Stuff happens. ... I think the team has to bail him out, and we had some chances in the third."
Then, after Anderson tied it at 2 when he chipped the puck over Ward's left shoulder with 11:59 left in the second, McGinn took a slick centering pass from Matt Tennyson and beat Forsberg to put Carolina back up by a goal with 6:02 before the break.
Saad then tied it at 3 with 54.5 seconds left in the second with a wrist shot.
NOTES: Hurricanes C Andrej Nestrasil cleared waivers and was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte. ... The Blue Jackets recalled G Joonas Korpisalo from their AHL affiliate in Cleveland. ... This was the first of three meetings between the teams in a 12-day span.
Blue Jackets: Continue their three-game road swing Friday night at Tampa Bay.
Hurricanes: Play the second game of their three-game homestand Friday night against Buffalo.
Updated January 10, 2017