- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Elias Lindholm was setting up his Carolina Hurricanes teammates all night long. None of his assists was bigger than his last one.

Jeff Skinner scored a power-play goal 3:02 into overtime off a smooth pass from Lindholm, and the Hurricanes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday.

Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg each had a goal and an assist, and Lindholm assisted on all three Carolina scores. After a rough early stretch in which he went 13 straight games without a point, Lindholm has six points in his last three games.

“A slow start for Lindy, but he’s been playing real well for a long time,” coach Bill Peters said. “It takes a while. The results don’t show up on the scoresheet each and every night, but you just keep doing it, and doing it right, and doing it longer than the other team, and eventually you get rewarded.”

Cam Ward made 23 saves for the surging Hurricanes. A last-place team no longer, they won their third straight and have earned points in 12 of 16 games.

“We’ve been staring at the standings all year,” Staal said. “We talked about (how) we scraped and clawed … (and) now you’ve got to climb, you’ve got to beat teams in front of you.”

Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz scored and Sidney Crosby had two assists for Pittsburgh, which trailed 2-0 before rallying. Kunitz tied it with 13:58 remaining in regulation off Crosby’s pass from behind the net.

“It’s just desperation,” Crosby said. “We saw the position we were in (and) just got a little bit more desperate. That’s how we need to play from the puck drop. … Being put in that situation was a big part of that.”

Skinner scored 22 seconds into a minor on Evgeni Malkin, who was whistled for hooking Jordan Staal near Ward’s net.

The Hurricanes worked the puck around to Lindholm, who feathered a pass just past defenseman Olli Maatta’s stick to Skinner, and he beat Marc-Andre Fleury from close range to end it.

“Lindy made a great play - a lot of patience with the puck, and gave me a nice pass backdoor,” Skinner said, “and I just sort of put it in there.”

That was the first power-play goal allowed by the Penguins since Dec. 19 - when Carolina’s John-Michael Liles scored one in the Hurricanes’ 2-1 win at Pittsburgh.

“Obviously, you don’t want to take a penalty at all, but especially when it’s that far from your net,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, adding that penalties in overtime “are not easy to kill.”

Fleury finished with 18 saves but gave up one of the strangest goals of the season - one that, before Skinner’s winner, was the game’s most buzzworthy score.

Versteeg fired a shot from behind the circle that clipped Crosby’s stick and went airborne. The puck landed between the 2 and the 9 on Fleury’s jersey and then trickled in to put the Hurricanes up 2-0 with 10:29 left in the second.

Fleury called it “a weird bounce” and Sullivan blamed it on “puck luck.”

Whatever the reason, it became an important goal because Letang pulled the Penguins within one 45 seconds later. Crosby won a draw and Maatta found Letang, whose slap shot got past a screened Ward.

That flurry of action came after Staal scored Carolina’s first goal 3:52 into the second. Parked to the left of Fleury, he took a pass from Versteeg and snapped it past the sprawled-out goalie for his ninth of the season and first since a win over Washington on New Year’s Eve.

NOTES: Carolina D Ron Hainsey and Penguins D Ian Cole traded punches with 13:34 left in the third. … Hurricanes C Victor Rask returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. … Carolina assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour, captain of the Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup team, was elected earlier in the day to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

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