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Carolina caps 10-win month by beating Blues 3-1

 
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Jeff Skinner scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 on Friday night.
 
Alexander Semin added an empty-netter with 1:04 left and Nathan Gerbe scored on an early power play.
 
They helped the Hurricanes win their fifth in six games to remain in the mix in the crowded Metropolitan Division.
 
David Backes scored on the power play for St. Louis.
 
The Blues, who average 3.36 goals per game, missed a chance to pull even with Chicago atop the Central Division by losing just their fourth game against an Eastern Conference team.
 
Anton Khudobin stopped 26 shots for the Hurricanes.
 
Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in his fourth straight start, but had his four-game winning streak snapped.
 
Khudobin stopped all 10 shots he faced in the third period, including a nifty leg save on Alex Pietrangelo with about 1 1/2 minutes left.
 
And, he got some help from the goal post after two Blues - Jaden Schwartz and Jay Bouwmeester - each rang it in the final 2 minutes.
 
Semin then tacked on his highlight-reel empty-net goal that capped the Hurricanes' best month in a while.
 
They went 10-4 in January - their most since winning 10 in March 2009 on the way to their most recent playoff appearance.
 
Skinner put Carolina up 2-1 off a draw 1:51 into the second. After Jordan Staal won a faceoff, the puck found Skinner's stick and he beat Halak with a wrist shot from the slot for his seventh goal of the month.
 
That turned out to be enough support for Khudobin, who earned the decision in every game this month for Carolina.
 
He helped the Hurricanes leapfrog idle Columbus and Philadelphia in the division standings, with 59 points. When the night started, only 11 points separated second place from the cellar in the Metropolitan.
 
The Hurricanes never trailed on Friday, taking advantage of some sloppy play early by the Blues - who were whistled for three penalties in the opening 11:25. Carolina went up 1-0 when Gerbe one-timed a slick cross-ice pass from Andrej Sekera 3:46 in.
 
The Blues, who have the league's second-best power-play unit, tied it at 9:23 when Backes beat Khudobin high for his 150th career goal with St. Louis.
 
NOTES: St. Louis finished the month 9-5-0. ... The Blues entered with 37 points on the road, the second-best total in the league, but have not won in Raleigh since 2009. ... Carolina G Cam Ward, out all of January with an unspecified lower-body injury, made a conditioning start Friday night with Charlotte of the AHL.

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