RALEIGH, N.C. — There is not much separating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina in the Metropolitan Division standings.
It stands to reason, then, that there seems to be very little separating them on the ice, either.
But if there is an edge so far this season, it belongs to the Hurricanes.
They defeated the Penguins, 3-2, at PNC Arena Sunday evening, the sequel to a 3-2 overtime victory by Carolina Nov. 29 at PPG Paints Arena.
The second-place Hurricanes (19-6-6) are four points ahead of the Penguins 18-9-4) in the Metro.
Carolina ended the Penguins’ seven-game winning streak while raising its record in the past 10 games to 9-0-1.
Penguins alum Jordan Staal snapped a 2-2 tie and got the game-winner at 13:33 of the third period, beating Casey DeSmith from between the left circle and the crease after reaching around Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to get to the puck.
The Penguins replaced DeSmith with an extra attacker with more than two minutes to play in regulation, but could not get the goal that would have forced overtime.
The Penguins, who entered the evening with at least one power-play goal in each of the previous seven games, got a chance with the extra man just 64 seconds into the game, but failed to capitalize.
They never really managed to generate a serious scoring chance, but got one shortly after Carolina returned to full strength, as Josh Archibald set up Ryan Poehling for a point-blank backhander, but Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov was able to stop it.
Poehling had the Penguins’ best scoring chance early in the game, but not their only one, as they ran up a 10-2 edge in shots during the first seven minutes.
The Penguins got their second opportunity with the man-advantage when Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns was sent off for holding at 17:03, but again were unable to manufacture any meaningful pressure, let alone a goal.
Despite having an edge in play through the early portions of the game, the Penguins fell behind, 1-0, at 3:25 of the second period when Derek Stepan corralled a loose puck in the left circle and, appearing to use Brian Dumoulin as a screen, threw a shot past DeSmith.
The goal was the 10th in 43 career games against the Penguins for Stepan, who used to face them frequently during his time with the New York Rangers.
Carolina got a power play 25 seconds after Stepan scored, as Chad Ruhwedel was sent off for hooking, but the Penguins were able to kill that penalty.
Martin Necas was assessed a hooking minor at 8:09, but the Penguins again failed to score. They did, however, get a quality chance, as Kochetkov was forced to stop Rickard Rakell from the slot.
Perhaps that was a portent of sorts, because Rakell tied the game, 1-1, when the Penguins got their fourth power play.
He set up in front of the net and deflected an Evgeni Malkin shot past Kochetkov for his 13th goal of the season. Assists went to Malkin, who extended his scoring streak to eight games, and Kris Letang.
Rakell’s goal gave the Penguins at least one man-advantage goal for the eighth game in a row.
The Hurricanes had a brief two-man advantage after Dumoulin (15:53) and Poehling (17:37) were sent to the penalty box, but a high-sticking minor against ex-Penguin Stefan Noesen reduced the 5-on-3 to 10 seconds.
Brock McGinn, who signed with the Penguins as a free agent in 2021 after starting his NHL career with the Hurricanes, broke a 1-1 tie at 5:03 of the third period, as he took a feed from Kasperi Kapanen during a two-on-one and beat Kochetkov from inside the right dot.
The Hurricanes pulled even at 8:17, when defenseman Brady Skjei scored from the left point while Kris Letang and Staal battled for position near the crease,
The Pittsburgh Penguins will return home for two games before the NHL’s four-day holiday break. They will face the New York Rangers Tuesday at 7:08 p.m and the Hurricanes Thursday, at the same time.