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Penguins' frantic rally falls short against Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Staal brothers had their fingerprints all over this one.

Penguins center Jordan Staal's two goals led to a frantic third-period rally, but his big brother had the last laugh by scoring the game-winner late in the third Saturday to give the struggling Hurricanes a 5-3 win.

"We kept finding ways, had a good third period," Jordan Staal said. "Just a bad finish."

Staal scored twice in the third period to pull the Penguins within a goal. Left wing Chris Kunitz then tied the game to finish off an impressive rally against Carolina goalie Cam Ward, who stopped 37 of 40 shots and was spectacular in the opening two periods.

However, Eric Staal scored the game-winner during a wild scramble in front of the net and set up right wing Chad LaRose's late goal to put the contest away.

"It was a pretty hectic third period," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was a little too hectic for us. He (Eric Staal) beats his man up the ice, the end of a tired shift for him. It's a dirty one at the cage, but that's where he's good. He picked up a big one for his team."

Younger brother Jordan almost willed the Penguins to a victory.

Promoted to the top line because of an injury to left wing Steve Sullivan -- Bylsma said Sullivan has a lower body injury and isn't sure of the injury's severity -- Staal immediately clicked with center Evgeni Malkin. The duo has had success before and looked perfectly comfortable when Malkin set up Staal's blast from the point just 1:40 into the third period.

"Geno's not a bad player," Staal said. "He's fun to play with. The way he sees the ice, you just try to get open and he usually takes care of the rest."

But it was Staal who also took care of the Penguins' next goal.

With right wing Arron Asham in the penalty box, Staal took a brilliant feed from left wing Matt Cooke and beat Ward on a clean breakaway, using a backhand shot that went between the goaltender's legs.

The Penguins appreciate Staal's dominant play early this season. He already has eight goals, trailing only right wing James Neal (11) for the team lead.

"He's playing unbelievable right now," right wing Pascal Dupuis said. "He's a force. Usually he is a force, and right now, the puck is going in the net for him. It's nice to see."

The puck hadn't been going in the net much for Eric Staal, who was moved from center to wing yesterday for the first time in his NHL career. Carolina's captain scored perhaps his team's biggest goal of the season to put the Hurricanes ahead. The Hurricanes entered the game having dropped four straight games, and rumors are swirling around Raleigh that coach Paul Maurice's job is in jeopardy.

The Penguins found themselves frustrated to have climbed such a tall mountain, only to fall in the game's final minutes.

"Not to take anything away from them," defenseman Brooks Orpik said, "but it was silly mistakes on our part. Spotting a team a three-goal lead on the road is tough."

Ward was exceptional during the game's first 30 minutes. He stopped Malkin on a breakaway, made a highlight-reel save on Sullivan, and played a role in shutting down the Penguins on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:28.

"We had so many quality chances," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He was great."

So was Carolina left wing Jeff Skinner, who scored a goal and set up two others against goalie Brent Johnson, who stopped only 21 of 26 shots.

"Skinner's good," Niskanen said. "We have to play him better next time. We have to do everything better next time."

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