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Peters' goaltending, two early goals carry Hurricanes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Carolina Hurricanes dead and buried? Not a chance.

Sparked by an early two-goal lead and the spectacular play of goalie Justin Peters, the Hurricanes beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 to vault back into the NHL playoff race Saturday afternoon at MTS Centre.

Peters, 26, has bounced around the Hurricanes' organization for the past six years, playing the bulk of his career in the American Hockey League. But he has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks with injuries to both Cam Ward and Dan Ellis.

The product of Blyth, Ontario, stopped 34 shots, including two breakaways, as Carolina improved to 16-15-2 and moved four points behind the Southeast Division-leading Jets (18-16-2).

Alexander Semin, Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored for the Hurricanes, who halted a seven-game winless skid in the process.

Carolina has three games in hand on Winnipeg with less than a month to go in the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. The Jets are third in the Eastern Conference as a result of the division lead.

Peters said the magnitude of the game wasn't lost on him and his teammates.

"There was obviously a lot of focus coming into this, a lot of desperation," he said. "Our leaders led the way right from the start, and the rest of us were able to follow."

Olli Jokinen had the only goal for the Jets, who fell to 8-9-0 at home.

Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves.

Peters, who was in goal Thursday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat Carolina 6-3 with four third-period goals, said he's gaining valuable experience with every period he plays.

"I'm trying to learn on the fly here," he said. "I'm just trying to give my best effort every night. We've had a lot of close games. It's just inches between winning and losing. (Today) we were able to come out on the right end."

On the game's first shift, the Hurricanes hemmed the Jets in their own end and a persistent foreckeck paid off when Semin buried a rebound off Tuomo Ruutu's shot for his 10th goal of the season.

Just over eight minutes later, the Hurricanes increased the lead to 2-0 when Jussi Jokinen scored his sixth goal of the season one second after Evander Kane stepped out of the penalty box. Ruutu picked up his second assist.

Carolina led 2-0 after the first period.

"We wanted to make sure we were showing them, and showing ourselves, that we were ready to play," said Eric Staal, who drew an assist on Semin's early goal and then scored his team-leading 16th goal of the game just 28 seconds into the third period.

"We got on them aggressively on the forecheck and we were able to work it down low and were rewarded with a nice little bounce for Alex's goal. That was big. We got that good feeling going on the bench, and the excitement and energy level up."

The Jets drew closer 1:26 into the second period when Olli Jokinen scored his seventh goal of the year, finishing off a two-on-one with Kane.

Winnipeg penalty-killers were efficient after that, weathering four straight minor penalties in the last 10 minutes of the second period, including two that overlapped to give the Hurricanes two short five-on-three opportunities.

Pavelec was brilliant and also got some help from a post.

The Jets trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes.

Clearly perturbed after the game, Jets coach Claude Noel refused comment on some questionable calls by the officials. He said the Jets did a good job on the penalty kill, sparking the sold-out crowd but doing little to rally the hockey club.

"I don't think we were able to take advantage of some of the momentum that happened," Noel said. "There were pockets of momentum where we might have taken advantage, killing those penalties in a row and a couple of those quick five-on-threes.

"I thought we could have pounced on something there. We didn't. It worked in reverse for us."

Only 28 seconds into the third period, Staal ripped a shot from the right faceoff dot that squeezed through Pavelec's pads to restore the two-goal lead.

Peters stopped two breakaways in the game, one in the second period on speedy center Bryan Little and one midway through the third period when Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey joined the rush with his team short-handed.

Carolina was 0 of 6 on the power play and Winnipeg was 0 of 3.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said the effort was there, but the finish wasn't.

"We put a couple more in their net and it's a different story," Ladd said. "It lies on us to get the job done. We just didn't put the puck in the net.

"The goal early in the third didn't help the cause. It took the air out of the building to start the third."

NOTES: Carolina goalie Cam Ward remains on injured reserve because of a knee injury and missed his 12th straight game. His backup, Dan Ellis, is also on injured reserve. ... The Hurricanes had gained only one point in seven games since March 14 before Saturday. ... The Jets were not assessed a penalty Thursday night during a 4-0 loss in Pittsburgh, the first time that has happened in a game in franchise history. ... The Hurricanes play the Canadiens in Montreal on Monday night. The Jets start a three-game trip Monday in Manhattan with a game against the Rangers. They also play the New York Islanders and the Canadiens. ... Olli Jokinen is one goal shy of 300 for his NHL career. ... Hollywood star Jennifer Connelly was spotted in the press box at MTS Centre her with husband, actor Paul Bettany. She's in Winnipeg shooting a movie that, presumably, calls for winter scenes. There's still a pile of snow in the Canadian prairie city.
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