The Carolina Hurricanes were seconds away from a third straight defeat and another disappointing loss at home.
But hockey is a game of sudden change, as both the Canes and Ottawa Senators were reminded Saturday.
The Hurricanes got a tying goal from forward Jeff Skinner with 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation, then the winning goal from center Jordan Staal in the three-on-three overtime to grab a 3-2 victory over the stunned Sens.
After Justin Faulk was wide of the net on a shot, Staal collected the puck at the top of the right circle, skated around the Sens’ Shane Prince and unloaded a shot past Sens goalie Andrew Hammond at 2:51 of the overtime.
“It was a night where we kept at it, kept at it,” Staal said. “It was a big win and nice to get.”
The Canes pulled goalie Cam Ward for a sixth attacker with more than two minutes remaining in the third. They swarmed around Hammond, keeping the puck in the zone, getting off shots.
Finally, Skinner found the net, off the rebound of a Staal shot.
“It was desperate and we were there to win the game,” said Staal, who picked up his third goal in the past three games. “In the third it got really desperate to find that goal and it was nice to be rewarded after a big third period.”
The Canes finished with a 46-21 shot advantage and had 18 in the third. Carolina also had all three shots in the overtime in earning their third OT win of the season.
Skinner, awarded the fireman’s helmet as the Canes’ MVP, scored his third goal of the season. It came after a game in which the winger was buzzing around the net, getting off five shots and 10 attempts in all.
“We had a lot of good looks,” Skinner said. “Hopefully it can start a good roll for me. I felt like I’ve had a couple of good looks recently I’d like to see go in and it’s nice to contribute to a win.”
Faulk scored a power-play goal in the second period to give the Canes a 1-0 lead. Carolina, sluggish in the first period Friday in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, had plenty of jump in the opening period Saturday but the first ended scoreless.
A delay-of-game penalty against Faulk in the second, when the defenseman flipped the puck over the glass, helped the Sens shift the momentum. Alex Chiasson scored on the power play for a 1-1 tie and rookie forward Chris Wideman scored with four minutes left in the second for his first NHL goal.
Hammond, known as the “Hamburglar” last season when he was one of the NHL’s best stories as a rookie, calmly turned back shot after shot in the third — until the end.
“It didn’t really feel like we were behind when we were,” Skinner said. “We were controlling the pace of the play and just couldn’t find one to squeak by him.”
Faulk scored his fifth — all on the power play — with a heavy shot from the point.
Canes coach Bill Peters made several changes after the loss to the Stars. Rookie defenseman Noah Hanifin was made a healthy scratch for the second time.
But the changes paid off in the end.
“We talked this morning about being a desperate team and I thought for the most part we were,” Peters said.