Hurricanes topple NHL-best Blue Jackets, 5-3, continue climb in standings

Carolina three points out of final playoff spot with two games in hand at seasons midway point.

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes hit the midway point of the season by knocking off the NHL’s best team. The 5-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday at PNC Arena also pushed Carolina right into the playoff mix.With 41 games gone and 41 to go, the Hurricanes are in the hunt.”We’re part of it. Oh, we’re part of it,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said after the win. “We believe we’re part of it and that’s what’s important.”With Carolina’s win and Philadelphia’s loss, the Hurricanes moved within three points of the Flyers with two games in hand for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.Carolina and Columbus entered the final period knotted at 3-3 after a wild five-goal second period that followed a mostly sloppy opening frame. Columbus’ Brandon Saad ensured the teams would enter the third period tied up when he fired a shot through Ward on a 2-on-1 rush to make 3-3 with 55 seconds left in the second.”Those goals can hurt,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. “I thought we did a great job of keeping our composure throughout the break there and knowing if we continue with our game and what we’re trying to do that we’re going to find a way to win.”They did, including Staal.Less than four minutes into the third, Carolina (19-15-7) got the eventual game-winner when a Staal forecheck caused a turnover by Blue Jackets defenseman — and former Hurricanes draft pick — Jack Johnson. Elias Lindholm, in his first game back after missing five with an upper-body injury, collected the puck along the boards and fired a shot that hit Staal in front and went past goalie Anton Forsberg to push the Hurricanes ahead, 4-3.”You see the addition of Lindy into the lineup, you see what he means to this team,” Peters said of Lindholm. “I thought he was very good. I thought he didn’t miss a beat. He got better every period.”The Jackets (28-8-4) pressured Carolina for the final 16 minutes, pulling Forsberg — who was making his first NHL start of the season after No. 1 Sergei Bobrovsky was too sick to dress — late but giving up an empty-net goal to Victor Rask to end the comeback bid.The line of Rask, Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan was Carolina’s best, with the trio finishing with three goals and eight points while doing most of their damage in the second period after Carolina trailed 1-0 after the first.”I think everyone knew that we still had a chance in the game; it was only 1-0,” Rask said after the Hurricanes managed just four shots on goal in the first. “So we just know we’re a good team and we know what we can do.”First, Skinner got his 15th goal of the season at 2:01 on a shot from the point after hustle plays from Rask and Ryan to tie the game.Then less than three minutes later, the trio struck again. Skinner’s slap shot from the point fluttered through Forsberg to the side of the net and Ryan swept it in for his eighth goal and a 2-1 lead.The Jackets were quick to respond. Josh Anderson’s bad angle shot floated up to Carolina goalie Cam Ward’s shoulder and bounced up and in at 8:01 to tie the game. The Hurricanes then got their third goal of the second period on a delayed penalty.After Lindholm drew a tripping call on Johnson, Carolina attacked with six skaters. From below the red line, defenseman Matt Tennyson slid a pass under Alexander Wennberg right to Brock McGinn, who banged in the puck to make it 3-2 with less than seven minutes left in the middle frame.Saad’s goal set up the rubber period in the third, with Staal getting game winner and improving Carolina’s 14-game run at home to 12-1-1.Notes: Cam Atkinson opened the scoring, getting his 20th goal of the season on a stuff play from the side of the net. … Rask finished plus-4 on the night, and both he and Skinner finished with a goal and two assists. … Carolina’s No. 1-ranked penalty kill bested Columbus’ top power play, killing all four of the Blue Jackets’ chances. … The game was Ward’s 17th straight start. He is 16-12-6 on the season.