RALEIGH, N.C. - The Carolina Hurricanes were missing three key defencemen against a Pittsburgh offence that ranks among the NHL's best. Then they discovered an effective way to slow the Penguins' goal-scorers: Turn up the pressure at the other end of the ice.
Ray Whitney had a goal and two assists and quick-shooting Carolina scored three power-play goals in its 4-2 win against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, vaulting the Hurricanes back into first place in the Southeast Division.
Erik Cole and Eric Staal snapped long scoring droughts with goals and Ryan Bayda added his first goal for the depleted Hurricanes, who also lost captain and leading scorer Rod Brind'Amour in the game's opening moments with a torn ligament in his left knee.
"We can't afford to sit back and say, 'Oh well, close was good enough tonight, with the personnel we had,"' Whitney said. "We had to go out and try to get a win."
Whitney, who entered with no goals in his previous 10 games, broke a 2-all tie with 16:15 left when he took a feed from Staal while slipping into the slot and beat Dany Sabourin with a low wrist shot to his glove side.
"They kept it simple with traffic in front," Sabourin said. "I had a tough time against them."
Cam Ward stopped 20 shots for Carolina, which held an overwhelming 46-22 shots advantage in winning its second straight and moving back into the division lead ahead of idle Atlanta and Washington.
Evgeni Malkin scored for the fifth straight game, defenseman Brooks Orpik added his first goal of the season and Sabourin made 42 saves for Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh, which dropped its second in a row and fell to 6-4-2 in their 12 games since star centre Sidney Crosby sprained his ankle.
"We're missing a lot of players and you know on the road it is eventually going to catch up with you," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "I think the last two games have been tough. We just have to regroup."
Malkin continued his torrid play in Crosby's absence - he has 10 goals and 13 assists since replacing Crosby on Pittsburgh's No. 1 line. His unassisted power-play goal in the second - which clipped off the stick of Carolina's Frantisek Kaberle - put the Penguins up 2-1 and moved him into second in the league with 76 points, two behind Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.
The combination of Malkin's recent scoring punch and the holes in Carolina's defence seemed too much to overcome for a Hurricanes team that entered having allowed 186 goals - the second-worst total in the league. Three defencemen were scratched - Tim Gleason and newly acquired Joe Corvo because of the flu and Bret Hedican with a lower-body injury - and three young players were rushed up from Albany of the AHL to replace them.
Then, coach Peter Laviolette had to fill another hole in his lineup when Brind'Amour tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He collided with Pittsburgh's Nathan Smith and Georges Laraque near the boards at the centre line just 1 1/2 minutes into the game and did not return.
"We were put to the test mentally with everything that's going on - the illnesses, we've faced some injuries, but you can't say enough about the kids that came up today," Ward said. "They played like true pros and looked like they've been playing for years. ... They deserved it."
Cole put Carolina up 1-0 about three minutes in with a power-play goal - just his second in 12 games - but Orpik tied it at the seven-minute mark with a blast from the left point. Then after Malkin gave Pittsburgh its only lead of the night, Staal tied it at 2-all, wristing the rebound of Whitney's shot past Sabourin's glove for his first goal since he was selected as the MVP of last month's all-star game.
"We were solid defensively. We threw everything at the net," Staal said. "We created a lot of chances offensively, and obviously, the power play was big."
Notes: Malkin extended his points streak to seven games, and has six goals and 11 assists during that stretch. ... Pittsburgh has lost four straight in Raleigh. ... For a 12-second stretch midway through the second, both Staal brothers were in their penalty boxes.