For 39 minutes and 50 seconds Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes looked like a team weary after a long road trip and ready to get back to Raleigh.
For the final 20 minutes and 10 seconds, they looked like a team desperately wanting to beat the Dallas Stars before coming back.
Jeff Skinner’s goal late in the second period, then another in the third finally ignited a mostly slumbering team that trailed 4-0. Jordan Staal scored a third goal and the Canes had a power play and pulled goalie Scott Darling late in regulation for a sixth attacker, looking to get to overtime.
In the end, it wasn’t enough. The Stars held on for a 4-3 win. The Canes showed some spunk but came away with no points and a 2-2-0 finish to the four-game State Fair trip.
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“We’ve got to learn a lesson: you can’t dig that big a hole, you’ve got to be ready to start,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “You need more guys ready to start from the drop of the first puck. I didn’t think there was an emotional engagement to the game.”
The Stars (5-3-0), who had won three in a row, were ready. Jamie Benn and Tyler Pitlick scored in the first period as the Stars breezed unencumbered up and down the American Airlines Center ice for scoring chances.
The Canes (3-2-1) went on a power play in the second, only to have the Stars kill off the penalty and then have Tyler Sequin jump out of the penalty box and rip a shot past Darling for his sixth of the season. Pitlick scored again and it was 4-0 while goalie Ben Bishop was stopping everything in net for Dallas.
But Skinner’s goal with 9.9 seconds left in the second, after Brock McGinn forced a Stars turnover, gave the Canes some energy at the intermission break. Skinner stayed with it as Bishop blocked his initial shot, lifting the rebound past the mammoth goalie.
“That gave us a little bit of life, a little bit of belief,” Peters said.
Skinner scored again at 5:32 of the third, whacking a loose puck past Bishop, who then had a hissy fit, stomping around the crease. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock used his coach’s challenge, claiming goaltender interference but Skinner’s goal, Skinner’s fifth goal of the season stood.
Staal scored after Sebastian Aho circled the net and centered, the puck glancing off the post directly to Staal in the low slot at 15:24.
“We’re not a team that’s going to quit,” Staal said.
There was a flurry of activity in the final couple of minutes, and Martin Hanzal’s slashing penalty gave the Canes the late power play. But Bishop picked up the last of his 36 saves to keep Skinner and the Canes from getting a tying goal.
Next up for Carolina: the Tampa Bay Lightning, another team playing well early in the season. The Lightning (7-1-1) ripped the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1 on Saturday.