Hurricanes top line leads way vs. Coyotes

Jack Magruder, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carolina's No. 1 line does not have a widely recognized nickname. Perhaps it should.
Center Eric Staal had a goal and two assists and left winger Jeff Skinner scored the go-ahead goal in the third period as the Hurricanes' top line continued to pile up points in a 3-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday.
Staal, Skinner and right winger Tuomo Ruutu have 33 points in 13 games since Skinner returned from an injury Nov. 21.
"The line has been clicking pretty well for the last couple of weeks," Skinner said. "We're feeling good about our game. We're getting chances, and that's the way it goes, sometimes for you and sometimes against you."
Skinner, who has eight goals in his last seven games, picked up a loose puck after a faceoff to the right of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and flipped a wrist shot home to make it 2-1 exactly three minutes into the third period.
"It was laying at Eric's feet, and I just tried to pull it out and put it on net. It found a way in," Skinner said.
Goaltender Justin Peters frustrated the Coyotes the rest of the way and finished with 37 saves for Carolina (14-13-7), which has 10 points in its last seven games.
"We have a saying, every play counts," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It came down to one faceoff we lost, and that was the difference in the game."
Peters gave up two goals or less in his last six starts. He robbed center Rob Klinkhammer with a glove save seven minutes into the second period and stopped a breakaway by center Antoine Vermette with 50 seconds left in the period.
He also got a leg on a shot by center Mike Ribeiro from point-blank range with five minutes left in the game.
"We talk about timely goals; he made some really timely saves at the right time of the game," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said.
"As a goalie, you are not getting anywhere without a great effort in front of you, so I think that speaks volumes to the way the guys have been playing, sticking to the process," Peters said.
Smith had 30 saves for the Coyotes (18-9-5), who are 10-3-2 at home but have won only one of their last five at home. It was their second loss in 11 games against the Eastern Conference.
Coyotes fourth-line left winger Paul Bissonnette scored the only goal of the first period when he deflected a shot from defenseman Connor Murphy past Peters at 6:14 of the first period. Center Jeff Halpern kept the play alive when he poked the puck to the point, earning an assist.
Bissonnette scored his first goal since Nov. 19, 2011, in a 4-2 victory at Buffalo. It was his first goal at home since Jan. 9, 2010, a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. He had played 83 minutes this season, with five assists and 11 penalty minutes.
"He doesn't get a lot of minutes, but the first period they (fourth line) gave us a lot of energy," Tippett said.
"We weren't bad, but we could have been better. We needed a spark and did not get one."
Hurricanes center Nathan Gerbe tied the game at 1 when he played the puck off the left side boards at center ice and skated in on Smith, beating high to the glove side at 8:50 of the second period.
NOTES: Coyotes C Shane Doan, who missed his fourth straight game with an undisclosed illness, met with the media after the second period. "Every day I'm feeling better," said Doan, who said he first felt fever and a headache on a recent three-game trip and was given medicine by a doctor in Vancouver on Dec. 6, the first game he missed. Doan said he rode a stationary bike for 10 minutes Saturday but no decision has been made as to whether he will make the four-game trip that begins in Montreal on Tuesday. ... Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game. ... Hurricanes RW Alexander Semin played in his second straight game after missing 12 with a concussion. He had 44 points in 44 games last season. ... The Coyotes, who entered the game 8-1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, play their next four games against teams in the East on a trip that begins Tuesday in Montreal. ... Coyotes D Derek Morris missed his fourth game for personal reasons but is expected to join the team on its East Coast trip.

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