RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Penguins were not in a free fall.
But they probably weren't far from it before beating Carolina, 3-1, Monday night at PNC Arena, either.
That victory pulled them out of a three-game losing streak that had begun a week earlier and could have dragged on awhile longer if they hadn't beaten the Hurricanes.
After all, their next game is Wednesday night against Boston, which ran them out of the Eastern Conference final in four games this spring.
That doesn't make the Bruins a lock to win Wednesday, of course, but the Penguins certainly couldn't assume they'll finish the evening with a couple of new points, either. Which is why there was genuine urgency to beating the Hurricanes.
"The longer you let it go, the more you start questioning yourself and your confidence starts to slip," said defenseman Brooks Orpik, who matched his career high with three assists.
Orpik had an epic offensive night, but rookie forward Jayson Megna had one to remember, as well, recording his first goal and first assist in the NHL.
It's not nearly as big a deal for Sidney Crosby, the league's leading scorer, to get a couple of points, but he did, anyway, running his total for the season to 20.
The victory, important as it was, came at a price, however, as the Penguins lost a significant player for the second game in a row.
Saturday, defenseman Rob Scuderi broke his left ankle in a 4-1 loss at Toronto and will need surgery this week to repair it. He will be out indefinitely.
Monday night, second-line right winger Chuck Kobasew -- who moved into that role after James Neal and Beau Bennett were injured earlier in the season -- left the game with an unspecified injury after absorbing a hard hit from Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason on his third shift of the game.
There was no immediate word on the nature or severity of Kobasew's injury.
"We're going to wait [for him] to be reevaluated before we give a timetable on what his injury might be," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Losing Kobasew freed some top-six minutes, and Megna handled some of them quite capably.
"He was effective on the ice on almost every shift he was out there," Bylsma said. "He really earned the opportunity to get more ice time throughout the game, and [he] really was a factor."
Although he logged just 10 minutes, 58 seconds of ice time, Megna got a couple of points and was credited with four shots, second most on the team. But his most enduring memory will not be of a well-placed shot or tape-to-tape pass, but of a Sidney Crosby shot that struck him after being launched toward Carolina goalie Justin Peters.
"I felt it go off my shinpad, and then I looked back and saw that it went in the net, so I figured that was probably me [who would get credit,]" Megna said.
His goal at 7:11 of the third period gave the Penguins their margin of victory and cemented Megna's place as the No. 1 star of the game.
Tanner Glass had put them in front, 1-0, at 8:25 of the opening period, when he punched in a Megna rebound from the inner edge of the left circle for his second goal this season.
Nathan Gerbe of Carolina got a five-on-three power play goal at 16:03 of the first to tie it, but that was the only one of Carolina's 21 shots that eluded goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Chris Kunitz scored the winner at 16:24 of the second, driving toward the net and steering a Crosby pass behind Peters for his fifth. That goal preserved Kunitz's status as the only NHL player who hasn't been held pointless in consecutive games since the start of last season.
"We scored some goals going hard to the net," Crosby said. "That's where they're going to be, if you want to score consistently."
The Penguins had failed to score timely goals in disappointing losses against the New York Islanders and Toronto over the weekend, but didn't repeat that as the Carolina game unfolded.
"When you do good things, you don't want to spoil it with some errors, mental errors," Crosby said. "We bounced back and got a big win."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.