WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets, making a strong late-season push, moved a step closer to reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday.
The Carolina Hurricanes, no longer in the playoff conversation, moved another step closer to the end of the season.
The Jets, taking advantage of a run of home games, topped the Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime at MTS Centre to extend their winning streak to five games. They're looking every bit the team that can take the Washington Capitals to the wire in the Southeast Division, trailing the Caps by two points.
Dustin Byfuglien's goal with 3:37 left in overtime was the winner after Justin Peters stopped a shot by Andrew Ladd.
The Hurricanes (17-23-3) had their playoff chances end when the New York Rangers topped the Florida Panthers 6-1 on Thursday. In five more games, their season will be over.
The Canes played without forward Jeff Skinner, who absorbed an open-ice hit from Ottawa"s Jared Cowen and was knocked out of the game Tuesday in Ottawa. Skinner returned to Raleigh for medical evaluaton, but general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday Skinner did not suffer a concussion.
Ondrej Pavelec, making his ninth straight start in net, gave the Jets another strong game, giving up two goals to the Canes' Tuomo Ruutu and then a goal by Alexander Semin with 1:12 left in regulaton that tied the score 3-3 and forced overtime.
Ruutu scored in the second period with a shot from the slot. In the third, he got a piece of a Marc-Andre Bergeron shot from the point.
Semin's goal came with Peters pulled from the net for a sixth attacker.
"We played pretty good game, just couldn't get the finish we wanted," Ruutu said. "In the third period I thought we were pushing. We had a couple of opportunities (late in regulation). Maybe next time."
Defensemen Zach Bogosian and Paul Postma scored goals as the Jets (23-19-2) led 1-0 after the opening period and moved ahead 2-0 in the second. Bogosian also assisted on Postma's power-play score.
Blake Wheeler then roared down ice and scored in the third period as Winnipeg's top line continued to pile up points and spearhead the Jets.
Bogosian had the only goal -- and provided about the only excitement -- in a lackluster first period. On a rush into the Canes zone, he thrust out his stick to poke the puck wide and past Peters.
"It's a tough building to play in and you have to be really ready, work hard, skate hard, hit hard," Ruutu said. "They were a little bit better in the first period but then I thought we were pretty good."
Ruutu missed much of the season as he recovered from hip surgery and did not have a goal in his first 11 games. But the winger took a pass in the slot from Faulk and ripped a shot past Pavelec with 9 minutes, 22 seconds left in the second period.
In the third, he went to the front of the net to tip the Bergeron shot.
"He's a very efficient player," Begreron said of Ruutu. "He's really hard to play against. He goes to the dirty areas and is a very solid player all around."
Penalties dogged the Hurricanes in the game. Faulk was called for tripping 46 seconds into the game. With three seconds left in the Faulk penalty, Jordan Staal was called for hooking the Jets' Blake Wheeler.
In the second period, Canes captain Eric Staal was called for an interference penalty. The Canes killed it off but Staal later was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct, possibly for arguing about the interference penalty.
Wheeler's goal, his 17th, came as he took a stretch pass from Bryan Little and split the Canes' defense up the middle of the ice. Little and Ladd each picked up their second assists of the game.
"I've said it for a while, the way we've been playing we haven't gotten great results we really deserve," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "But again I'm proud of the guys, the way they've been battling. When it does change they're going to get rewarded."
The Hurricanes beat the Jets 3-1 on their last visit to MTS Centre, on March 30, as Peters stopped 34 of 35 shots. That ended a seven-game winless streak, but Carolina followed up the win by losing the next seven games in regulation.
Peters was making his fifth consecutive start for the Canes and had a few sparkling saves. With the game scoreless in the first, the Jets' Evander Kane had an open net, only to have Peters kick out his right leg for a pad save -- Kane looking to the rafter in disbelief.
With the NHL set for realignment and new divisions next season, it was the last Southeast Division game between the Canes and Jets, who relocated to Winnipeg from Atlanta.
Alexander: 919-829-8945 or Twitter: @ice_chip