RALEIGH — With nine minutes left in the Carolina Hurricanes’ game Monday against Columbus, things appeared bleak for the home team.
The Blue Jackets led 2-0 and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was making stop after stop at PNC Arena. A few fans were seen leaving the building. Columbus was on the brink of a third straight win over the Canes this season, and in an important Metropolitan Division matchup.
But this night, the Hurricanes refused to lose. Eric Staal scored two goals exactly one minute apart, and brother Jordan Staal then scored a third as the Canes rallied for a 3-2 victory.
Just like that, the Canes had won their fourth in a row and moved past the Jackets in the division standings, taking over third place. Carolina (24-19-9) has 57 points, one ahead of Columbus and the Philadelphia Flyers and only two points behind the second-place New York Rangers.
“We knew this would be a grind,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “These are the teams we’ve got to learn to beat, teams that are big and strong on the boards and grind you down. The guys stayed with it and found a way. Our big boys came up with big goals.”
The Blue Jackets (26-22-4) grabbed the 2-0 lead early in the game as Derek MacKenzie and R.J. Umberger scored goals in a 17-second span. Bobrovsky, who will be on the Russian Olympic team at the Sochi Games, had blanked the Canes 3-0 earlier in January and seemingly was on his way to another shutout.
The Hurricanes, playing their fourth game in six days, had a sluggish start. The Jackets were quicker to the puck and stronger on it.
“But we got better as the game went on,” Eric Staal said “We got stronger and stronger and eventually broke through in the third.”
After the first 10 minutes, the Canes steadied. They had 17 shots in the second period, getting off seven during a late-period power play.
“We got our legs going in the second period,” said Jordan Staal, who got in some big hits in the period. “We could feel our momentum shifting. Going into the third we felt good with our game. We just wanted to get that one and go from there.”
Eric Staal got that one, finally beating Bobrovsky with a quick five-hole shot.
Staal then did it again. With 7:42 left in regulation, he scored after Jiri Tlusty knocked the puck away from defenseman Fedor Tyutin and centered a pass.
It was 2-2 and PNC Arena was thundering. It was even louder when Jordan Staal scored with five minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third.
Taking a pass on the left wing from winger Elias Lindholm, Staal cut to the middle, dragged the puck past defenseman Ryan Murray and got off a wicked backhander before tumbling to the ice.
“I just tried to get it on net and was lucky enough to get a fortunate bounce,” Jordan Staal said, smiling. “It felt good.”
When the Blue Jackets last played at PNC Arena, on Dec. 23, Columbus had the last-gasp rally, scoring twice late for a 4-3 comeback win. That left the Canes in a sour mood over the Christmas break.
“We owed ‘em one,” Eric Staal said.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin, who will not be on the Russian Olympic team, was the winner. He closed with 22 saves and made the right stops at the right times.
It helped that the Jackets’ Nick Foligno, looking at an open net with 12 minutes left in the second, hit the crossbar. But hockey games often are determined by such plays.
The Hurricanes left for Montreal after the game and will face the Canadiens on Tuesday. That will mark five games in seven days, a rugged stretch. Part of the grind.
Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip