RALEIGH, N.C. — A bulk of the attention was focused on Eric Staal, a former longtime Carolina Hurricanes captain who returned to PNC Arena as a player for the New York Rangers on Thursday.
But a pair of young Carolina players grabbed at least a portion of the spotlight.
Victor Rask’s power-play goal capped a rally that lifted the Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory over the Rangers.
At 9:06 of the third period, Rask shot into an open side of the net when Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t recover in time to make a stop, snapping a 3-3 tie. Carolina scored the only two third-period goals.
Patrick Brown’s first NHL goal along with tallies from Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner gave Carolina clutch offense.
“It’s a great feeling,” Brown said. “I was able to sneak it by him. It was an incredible feeling. … I was just more happy I could contribute to a win.”
The Staal factor couldn’t be overlooked.
“It was definitely emotional,” Staal said.
With 20 seconds left, he took a faceoff against his brother, Carolina center Jordan Staal.
“It definitely brought back some memories,” Jordan Staal said. “There was some extra motivation to beat the brothers (Marc Staal is Rangers defenseman). You could tell everyone was working.”
Eric Staal played 909 games with the Hurricanes before he was traded to the Rangers at the end of February. A video tribute for him was played during the first timeout. He received a standing ovation from fans of both teams.
“It was all about Eric,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said of the game. “I thought the response he got from our fans and his fans was outstanding and well deserved and earned. … It was a great game and interesting to be a part of.”
Jordan Staal said he knew the situation had to be taxing on his brother.
“I’m sure a lot of things were running through his mind,” he said. “I know they were going through my mind.”
The Hurricanes had a strong start and solid finish to the game. Some of that could have been some of the fallout from the attention on Eric Staal.
“The whole period, we were caught watching,” Marc Staal said of the opening 20 minutes.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he was disappointed with the outing from his team, which could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory.
“I haven’t said this very often about this group, but we got outworked badly in the first period,” Vigneault said. “We definitely weren’t prepared to compete.”
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made 24 saves.
Carolina (34-28-16) is clinging to slim playoff hopes. The Hurricanes sit five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who occupy the second Eastern Conference wild-card position.
Mats Zuccarello, Rich Nash and Chris Kreider scored for the Rangers (43-25-9), who won the previous nine meetings against the Hurricanes.
Lundqvist finished with 24 saves.
Skinner scored the tying goal with 15:38 remaining, redirecting a blast from defenseman Ryan Murphy.
New York dropped to 27-2-2 this season when leading after two periods.
The Rangers scored three goals in the second period to grab a 3-2 lead.
Kreider scored the go-ahead goal 24 seconds into a power play after Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey was called for hooking.
Brown’s first career goal came courtesy of a convenient ricochet of the puck when Skinner sent a delivery toward the corner. Brown was alone when the puck bounced out.
Brown, who was pointless in 10 previous career games, was playing in his fourth game of the season.
In the second period, Zuccarello scored from about the same spot on the ice as Brown, though his degree of difficulty was quite a bit higher. Zuccarello took a pass from Derek Stepan and rifled a shot that skipped off Ward’s shoulder and into the net.
Nash’s goal came as he was tangled with Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce, still managing to dislodge enough to fire a shot from the left side.
Suddenly, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead despite putting up only nine shots.
Carolina pulled even when Faulk scored with 6:33 left in the second period. It was the Hurricanes’ second shot of the period. Faulk, who missed more than a month with an injury before a mid-March return, hadn’t scored since Feb. 5.
One of the assists went to left winger Sergey Tolchinsky, who was making his NHL debut.
The Hurricanes produced the game’s first seven shots on net, but none of those resulted in a goal.
Carolina, though, went without a shot for the first 10 minutes of the second period.
NOTES: LW Sergey Tolchinsky, a 21-year-old Russian, made his NHL debut for Carolina after he was called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. … A Rangers defenseman had earned at least one point on 36 of the team’s last 52 goals. … The Rangers return home to face Buffalo on Saturday. The Hurricanes are home Saturday against Columbus.