PITTSBURGH — It was the kind of play the Carolina Hurricanes surely feared.
It was Jeff Skinner, down on the ice. It was Skinner taking a huge hit and being taken to the locker room.
Skinner got back up and played, but the Hurricanes couldn't make a complete feel-good story tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins won 2-1 in a shootout on James Neal's goal.
Evgeni Malkin and Neal scored in the shootout against Cam Ward, while the Canes got a score from Jussi Jokinen but saw Skinner and Eric Staal stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Staal had a chance to end it for the Canes midway through the overtime, but was denied in front by Fleury. In the final seconds of the OT, defenseman Tim Gleason got his stick on a shot by Pascal Dupuis.
Skinner took a shoulder from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik with 12:57 left in the third period, with the score tied 1-1. Orpik was called for an interference penalty while Skinner had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room for observation -- as is NHL protocol for players who may have suffered a head injury.
Pens fans booed the penalty call. Canes fans no doubt recalled Orpik's dangerous hit from behind on Erik Cole in 2006 that gave Cole a broken neck.
Skinner, the Calder Trophy winner last season, was playing his second game since sitting out 16 games recovering from a concussion. That came after a clean but hard open-ice hit by Andy Sutton of the Edmonton Oilers in the Dec. 7 game in Edmonton.
But Skinner did return to the game. After taking the "quiet room" tests, he was cleared to play.
The Penguins had lost four straight on home ice and the Hurricanes were intent on adding a fifth.
The Pens appeared vulnerable. Among those injured and out were Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, and the Pens had lost six straight games before beating the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on the road over the weekend.
But the Pens still have Malkin. They have James Neal. They have Fleury and one of the hard-working teams in the NHL.
Defenseman Jamie McBain's early goal gave the Canes a 1-0 lead, but Malkin tied the score for the Penguins late in the first period for a 1-1 tie.
McBain scored his fourth goal of the season -- and fourth career against the Pens -- at 2:11 of the first. Jussi Jokinen tried to pass to Jeff Skinner in the slot, but the puck went to McBain for an open shot between the circles. Skinner also earned an assist on the goal, his first point since his return.
Malkin's goal, his 22nd of the season and seventh in the past six games, came with 1:22 to play in the first. Malkin swiped the puck from the Canes' Eric Staal in the right circle, then wristed a quick top-shelf shot past goalie Cam Ward.
The Canes had chances to add to their 1-0 lead in the first. Skinner had a shot from the low slot that Fleury stopped with six minutes left in the first, and Fleury then denied Tuomo Ruutu on a shot at the post.
Malkin nearly scored again with 25 seconds left in the first. Carrying the pcuk out from behind the net, he ripped a shot that Ward stopped.
The Pens seemed to find some life after defenseman Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves and fought the Canes' Tim Gleason with a little more than six minutes left in the first period. After a slow start, the Pens outshot the Canes 13-10 in the first.
The Pens outshot the Canes 52-18 in their last game, in a 4-2 win on Dec. 27. The Canes had 18 shots Tuesday after the second period and were being outshot 24-18.
The Pens had more jump in the second period and missed a chance to grab an early 2-1 lead when defenseman Paul Martin was looking at an open net but banged the puck into Ward. Later in the period, Tyler Kennedy had a shot bang off the post.
The Canes' Pat Dwyer had a breakaway with five and half minutes left in the second, but Fleury was able to get a piece of the shot.
The Canes had their first power play with 1:09 left in the second after Martin was called for tripping Dwyer. Staal worked free in front of the net for a backhander but Fleury made the save with seconds left in the period to keep it 1-1.