RALEIGH The Carolina Hurricanes’ struggles to score at even strength came back to bite them again. So did their inability to stop Johnny Gaudreau. “Johnny Hockey” factored in on all three Flames goal, assisting on the first and scoring the other two, to will Calgary past Carolina 3-1 on Sunday at PNC Arena.The visiting Flames scored twice in the second period, erasing Carolina’s early lead and sealing the Hurricanes’ 1-3-1 record in their five-game homestand.”For how consistent we’ve been at home, it’s been frustrating these last few,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. “They were big games and we dropped the ball on a few. I thought we played well in a few, didn’t get the result. But consistently we weren’t good enough to win NHL hockey games.”For the second straight game, Carolina scored first and did so in the opening minutes. After Staal drew a holding penalty on Calgary’s Sam Bennett, Carolina (25-25-8) set up shop in the Flames zone. Jeff Skinner zipped a cross-ice pass to Victor Rask, who fired a shot past Calgary goalie Brian Elliott (34 saves) to make it 1-0 at 4:54 and give Rask his first goal since Jan. 13. “It’s been a while since I scored, but it’s not about scoring it’s about winning,” Rask said.It looked like Carolina would push the lead to two when defenseman Ryan Murphy jumped in the slot and fired the puck at the net. But Calgary’s Matt Stajan, who had gotten tangled up with the Hurricanes’ Phil Di Giuseppe, stood up just as the shot entered the goal mouth and blocked it with his shoulder or neck to keep it a one-goal game.Carolina coach Bill Peters said a two-goal lead may not have even mattered given the lackluster effort his team had.”It would’ve been big for sure, but would we have started to play properly at that point if we got up two?” he said. “When we’re up one, why don’t we start playing properly? Or do the right thing and play properly for 60 minutes, and if it goes into a little extra overtime, then play properly for 65 minutes. I didn’t think we did that.”The Flames (33-26-4) tied it 6:05 into the second when Gaudreau sprung Michael Ferland on a breakaway and he beat Eddie Lack (21 saves) over his right shoulder to make it 1-1. Then Gaudreau took center stage.With 5:10 left in the middle frame, Gaudreau took a backhand from the slot that was blocked but came right back to him. He quickly fired the puck back at the goal, getting it under Lack for a 2-1 Flames lead.Gaudreau added an insurance goal in the third, cutting to the middle of the ice and ripping a shot past Lack for his 13th goal with less than nine minutes left.Carolina again outshot their opponent, registering 35 shots on Elliott to Calgary’s 24 on Lack, who was coming off a shutout win Friday against Ottawa and earned a second consecutive start.Peters said the last three games were a microcosm of the season.”I think our whole team has had a hard time being consistent,” Peters said. “You look at the Pittsburgh effort and the effort against Ottawa I don’t think are the same as the effort tonight. Our effort was lacking throughout.”Notes: Rask’s goal snapped a 15-game goal drought. … The new pairing of Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce was on the ice for all three Calgary goals and was split up in the third period, with Pesce rejoining Jaccob Slavin and Hanifin playing with Justin Faulk. … Skinner’s assist gave him 20 on the year, marking the fifth time in his seven seasons he has had 20 goals and 20 assists. … Skinner did not have a shot on goal for the second time this season (Jan. 26 vs. Los Angeles). Prior to that, he had not been held without a shot since Jan. 17, 2016.
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