Patrik Laine was the most dangerous player on the ice Sunday, and that was not a good thing for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Laine, the Finnish sharpshooter, had a pair of goals and could have had more as the Winnipeg Jets turned back the Canes 3-2 at PNC Arena.
The Canes (29-26-11) needed to win Sunday to stay in playoff position in the NHL's Eastern Conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets took over the second wild-card spot with a road win over the San Jose Sharks, and with 71 points now are one point ahead of the Florida Panthers and two in front of the Canes.
The Jets, coached by former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, have one of the best teams in the Western Conference. A team with four-line balance, good size and speed, Winnipeg (39-17-9) became even stronger by adding veteran forward Paul Stastny and defenseman Joe Morrow before before the NHL trade deadline last week.
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Stastny scored in the third period for a 3-1 lead after Ben Chiarot’s shot went off the post and then hit a referee. Laine also assisted for his third point of the game.
Jordan Staal’s goal with 4:12 remaining in the third pulled the Canes within 3-2 but Carolina could not tie it after pulling goalie Cam Ward for a sixth attacker.
“Obviously the games are getting tighter and there’s less and less room out there as you get down the stretch,” said Canes forward Jeff Skinner, who had six of his team’s 35 shots but could not score. “You need to match that level of intensity and exceed it to keep climbing.”
The Canes’ first goal, by Teuvo Teravainen, came when the puck glanced off Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in front of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Teravainen earned his 19th goal and has scored in each of the past four games.
“He’s way more competitive on a consistent basis right now than he’s ever been probably in his career,” Canes coach Bill Peters said of the Finnish forward.
Hellebuyck gave up numerous rebounds in the game but the Canes couldn’t get to enough second chances other than Staal in the third. Nor did it help that Carolina was 0-3 on the power play.
“Specialty teams are huge and we were minus-1 tonight in a one-goal hockey game,” Peters said. “You can say that was the difference.”
Carolina was looking to maintain the momentum built last week when it took five of six points in games against Boston, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The Canes beat the Flyers and Devils in a back-to-back set behind Ward, and had Ward in net Sunday for the third time in four days seeking a third straight win.
“It’s playoff style hockey right now and I thought we’ve been digging in, working hard, battling hard,” Staal said. “We came up short tonight but the effort was there.”
Laine has played with the Canes’ Sebastian Aho for Finnish national teams and was on a line that Aho centered as the Finns won the 2016 World Junior Championship. The second overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season-opener against Aho and the Canes in Winnipeg and scored his first goal in an overtime win.
After a 36-goal rookie season, Laine now has 35 in his second year, 17 on the power play. That’s 71 goals as a teenager — he turns 20 on April 19 — as he passed former Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman (69) and moved into sixth place on that career list for teenagers.
“It comes off his stick different, right?” Peters said. “It jumps off his stick. He was real dangerous and his line was really good.”
Laine scored in first period on a low shot from the slot. After an offensive-zone penalty against Aho in the second period, Laine rifled a shot for a power-play goal and a 2-1 lead.