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Carolina Hurricanes' Alexander Semin (28), of Russia, battles with Pittsburgh Penguins' James Neal (18) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
RALEIGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins keep losing players but winning games.
The Penguins did it again Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes. James Neal’s goal 63 seconds into overtime gave the Pens a 4-3 victory at PNC Arena.
Earlier Friday, Penguins coach Dan Blysma said veteran forward Pascal Dupuis would undergo knee surgery and might be lost for the season. That was a downer for the Pens, who also played Friday without center Evgeni Malkin, but they didn’t let it affect their play on the ice.
The Canes controlled much of the first two periods, leading 1-0 after the first and 2-1 after the second. But Carolina (14-15-9) again could not hold a third-period lead and lost yet another overtime game.
“We came out and had a really strong two periods but the difference was they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.
The Canes have dropped four straight games and are 1-2-4 in their past seven. They’re 1-6 this season in games decided in overtime, and 1-3 in shootouts, letting a lot of potential points slip away.
“Overtimes and shootouts have not been good for us,” Canes center Jordan Staal said. “We’ve got to find a way to get those two points.”
When Pens defenseman Deryk Engelland scored with fewer than seven minutes left in regulation, the Canes trailed 3-2 and were in danger of another regulation loss. On Monday, in their final game before the Christmas break, the Canes saw Columbus surge with two goals in the final minutes for a 4-3 comeback win.
But Drayson Bowman playing one of the best games of his NHL career, tied the score with 2:29 left in regulation. The winger beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a wraparound for a 3-3 tie.
The Canes had the first two shots of overtime, only to have Neal zoom down the ice and beat Canes goalie Justin Peters for the winner.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera scored for the Canes in the final seconds of the first period, beating Fleury with a top-shelf backhander. The Pens’ Sidney Crosby tied it 1-1 with a backhander 16 seconds in the second period, but Canes forward Nathan Gerbe fought off Pens defenseman Matt Niskanen and scored 14 seconds after Crosby.
Chris Conner’s goal about two minutes into the third made it a 2-2 game as the Pens had more jump and intensity and moved the puck better.
“They came out desperate,” Peters said. “They definitely elevated their game.”
Gerbe had a goal and assist, and Jordan Staal and Alex Semin each had assists as the Canes’ second line was matched up much of the game against Crosby’s line. The Pens, in turn, wouldn’t let the Canes’ Jeff Skinner be a difference-maker, limiting the dangerous winger – who has 10 goals in December – to one shot.
The Canes said Friday that forward Jiri Tlusty underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday and would be lost for two to three weeks. With Tlusty out, Bowman was shifted to the third line and forward Zach Boychuk recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
Former Canes forward Jussi Jokinen, who had a hat trick against his old team earlier this season, had the primary assist on Neal’s goal and finished with three helpers. Neal assisted on the goals by Crosby and Conner.
The Pens, 28-11-1 and at the top of Eastern Conference, lost 5-0 at Ottawa in their final game before the three-day holiday break, ending a seven-game win streak. But they rebounded behind Fleury, who had 31 saves and was called the Pens’ best player by Bylsma.
“They kept battling and made some nice plays,” Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “They’re a good team and we couldn’t close them out.”
Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip
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