RALEIGH -- There are a couple of phrases that had not been heard lately: "Canes win" and "Staal scores." But that all changed Saturday night at the RBC Center.
Staal's goal with 4:34 left in regulation proved to be the game-winner in the Carolina Hurricanes' 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins that ended the Canes' troubling four-game losing streak.
"It was gutsy," Staal said of the win. "It was needed, for our whole team and for me especially. I felt like I couldn't get worse.
"When you're up 3-0 and then all of a sudden it's 3-3, you can either shell up and call it a night or you can go after the next goal. I think as a group we showed a lot of character and fought hard."
Staal, playing the wing for the first time this season, stuffed the puck past goalie Brent Johnson on a rebound of a Chad LaRose shot. It was his first goal n 11 games and his first even-strength score of the season, and it gave the Canes a 4-3 lead just when it seemed they might be on the brink of another third-period collapse.
"It was a dirty one at the cage," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "But that's where (Staal) is good and he was there a couple of other times tonight. He picked up a big one for his team."
LaRose then added a late goal, on an assist from Staal, to make it 5-3.
The Pens (10-4-3) were allowing just 2.06 goals a game, fourth-best in the NHL, and had given up more than three in a game just once -- a 4-3 loss to Toronto on Oct. 29. But the Canes (6-8-3) found the net five times.
"It was a nice relief to get the winner," Staal said. "Hopefully it gets me going and gets the team going in the right direction."
Jeff Skinner had a goal and two assists, Tuomo Ruutu scored twice and Cam Ward had a slew of quality saves for the Canes, who led the Pens 3-0 after two periods.
But the Pens tied it in the third. Jordan Staal scored twice, the second on a shorthanded breakaway. When Chris Kunitz blasted in a shot from the right circle with 7:42 left in the third, it was 3-3.
"It's been frustrating giving up leads and losing games in the third but we stayed with it and that shows some mental toughness," Skinner said.
A night after being roughed up by the New York Rangers in a 5-1 loss, Ward finished with 37 saves.
"He stood tall there most of the game," Bylsma said. "He was a star tonight. He earned it."
Staal believed he had scored on a breakaway early in the third that would have given the Canes a 4-0 lead. He took a shot and kept jamming at the puck, which did go over the goal line. But a quick whistle by the referee negated the score.
"I didn't like the call," Staal said. "I thought the goaltender's momentum was carrying himself into the net and the puck went along with it. Not necessarily me jamming it. Sometimes they count those and sometimes they don't and I think (the referee) was in a position where he was on the wrong side of the net and couldn't see it.
"Sometimes that's the way it goes. You can feel sorry for yourself or go back out the next shift and do your best. I think I did that and was rewarded. Which was nice."
Skinner picked up his seventh goal of the season at 1:22 of the first, spinning around defenseman Paul Martin and beating goalie Brent Johnson with a backhander that glanced off the post.
The Canes killed off a 5-on-3 in the second period, then scored twice. Skinner fed Ruutu on a two-on-one for the first goal with 4:09 left in the period. But Skinner wasn't through, pursuing the puck and getting it to Ruutu for another.
The Canes then had to tough it out.
"That was a man's game out there," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "There was a lot of hitting and snarling. That was an absolute battle and it took every guy. There were no passengers."
The Pens started Johnson in goal, giving Marc-Andre Fleury the night off. That move backfired.