Gerry Broome
March 31, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes welcomed back one of the most accomplished players in club history. Then they handed him a loss.

Victor Rask scored the go-ahead goal with 10:54 left, and the Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night in former captain Eric Staal's return to his old home arena.

''It was fun for me. I'm sure it was fun for Eric, as well,'' said younger brother Jordan Staal, a Hurricanes forward. ''I'm sure he'd like to have a different result.''

Jeff Skinner, Patrick Brown and Justin Faulk also scored for the Hurricanes, who trailed 3-2 after two periods. Ryan Murphy had two assists and Cam Ward made 24 saves.

Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored for New York and Derek Stepan had two assists during a three-goal second. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 24 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 27-2-2 when leading after two.

''They didn't have a lot of looks, but the ones they did have, they cashed in on,'' Eric Staal said.

New York would have clinched a playoff berth with a win in either regulation or overtime. Instead, the loss and Pittsburgh's victory over Nashville dropped the Rangers into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Penguins.

Rask's winner off a rebound came after Faulk reached up to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The Rangers challenged that the Carolina defenseman was offside but the officials determined the video review was inconclusive, allowing the goal to stand.

''If you look at the game-winner, it's an inch either way,'' Skinner said. ''(Faulk) makes a great play keeping it in. You look at the other side, it's an inch away from being out. That's how close the games are now.''

Skinner started the third-period rally when he redirected Murphy's slap shot from the blue line past Lundqvist at 4:22, and Ward stopped all 10 shots he faced in the period.

Carolina has earned points in 12 of 14 games since the trade deadline - the day after it sent Staal to the Rangers.

''This team continues to grow and develop and mature and figure it out,'' coach Bill Peters said. ''That's what's happening.''

All eyes were on the former Carolina center in his first game at the arena he called home for a dozen years. Since the Hurricanes moved from Hartford in 1997, Staal owns every significant career club record.

''To me, (the night) was all about Eric,'' Peters said.

The wall outside the Rangers' dressing room bore a collage of photos of Staal's time in Carolina and a ''ThankYouEric'' Twitter hashtag. During the first TV timeout, the Hurricanes played a tribute to him on the videoboard - after which, Staal did not one but two thank-you stick waves.

''It was pretty neat - a lot of emotion, a lot of memories that came flooding back in that moment,'' Staal said.

Then his new team peppered his old friend Ward in the second, scoring twice in an early span of 3:27.

Zuccarello made it 1-1 just 96 seconds into the period when he beat Ward high with a wrist shot. Nash - with Brett Pesce hanging on his back - then beat Ward high to his glove side to make it 2-1 at 5:03.

Kreider gave the Rangers a short-lived 3-2 lead with 2:42 left in the second and 24 seconds into a hooking minor on Ron Hainsey, surging past Pesce and beating Ward to his glove side.

NOTES: Brown's goal was the first of his career. ... Zuccarello has five points in his last five games. His 25th goal of the season was his 200th career point. ... Carolina LW Sergey Tolchinsky made his NHL debut and was in the starting lineup. He assisted on Faulk's goal for his first career point. ... Faulk's goal was his first since Feb. 5, though he missed 18 games since then with a lower-body injury.

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Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

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