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Jeff Skinner leads Carolina Hurricanes' late comeback vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

By David Droschak, The Sports Xchange
Jeff Skinner leads Carolina Hurricanes' late comeback vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Jeff Skinner scored his team-leading 32nd of the year with 4:20 left in regulation to send the game into the extra period as Carolina scored a 2-1 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Resilient. Relentless. Pick one if you are the Carolina Hurricanes lately.

"Those words are appropriate, for sure," said Carolina coach Bill Peters, who saw his team extend its point streak to a franchise-record 13 straight with a 2-1 overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

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"The guys believe and the guys are playing hard, and they are playing hard for each other," Peters said. "We had a lot of subtle plays out there. You have to stay with it and play all 60 minutes, and if it's 65, you just keep playing."

Noah Hanifin scored with 2:44 left in OT as Carolina improved to 9-0-4 in its last 13 games in pursuit of Boston for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes, with six games remaining, trail the Bruins by four points with one game in hand.

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Carolina is part of a logjam of teams that include the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning who are trying to close in on the Bruins.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that was one of my better moments of the season," said the 20-year-old Hanifin of his goal.

"You like that pressure," added Jeff Skinner, who finished March with 12 goals and five assists for the Hurricanes. "It's better than the alternative. It's fun coming to the rink because we're on a little bit of a roll and guys are feeding off each other and everyone is contributing. It seems that every night it's a different guy stepping up. That's a lot of fun."

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Skinner scored his team-leading 32nd of the year with 4:20 left in regulation to send the game into the extra period. His centering pass deflected off the skate of defenseman Seth Jones and past Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who was just minutes from his second shutout in a month.

Skinner then helped set up the final goal when he spun off a defender and the loose puck was picked up by Hanifin in the slot for his fourth of the season and first game winner of his brief career.

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"Jeff is such a creative player and nine times out of 10 he's going to get the puck to the net so I was just trying to come down the middle hoping for a rebound and it came right to me," Hanifin said. "Jeff is a lot of fun to have on your team."

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Carolina (35-27-14) finished March 10-2-5 for 25 points -- the second most in franchise history in a month.

"I just like seeing the growth amongst our team moving forward," Peters said. "We're getting a lot of questions answered. There is a willingness to do it right and an understanding that sometimes winning hurts. We were grinding tonight, and you learn how to win and you learn what it takes to win and that's what it's all about this time of year."

With one point, the Blue Jackets (49-19-8) gained ground on Washington for first overall in the Eastern Conference and the race for the Presidents' Trophy with six games remaining. Columbus trails the Capitals by four points and hosts Washington on Sunday.

"We've got to keep our head down here, and keep working at it," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "I think our top guys have got to get going. That would be the difference in the game."

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Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson broke a scoreless game with 3:35 left in the second period when his shot from the left circle eluded Cam Ward's glove for his fourth of the year. It was also Johnson's first goal against Carolina in 18 career games against a franchise that drafted him third overall in 2005.

NOTES:

-- Carolina logged a team-record 17 games in a span of 30 days in March.

-- Hurricanes coach Bill Peters says backup G Eddie Lack (strained neck) hopes to begin skating this weekend.

-- Columbus has now gone eight straight games without a power-play goal.

-- Carolina received a scare when LW Jeff Skinner took a shot off his left heel and hobbled off near the end of the first period. However, the team's leading scorer returned for the start of the second.

-- C Sam Gagner's assist on the Johnson goal moved him within two points of 400 for his career.

-- Columbus lost for just the fourth time in 36 games when leading after two periods.

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